Friday, November 9, 2012

Coffee, Tea, and... Sex Trafficking?

So, one thing I know is this: a sure way to feel better about yourself and your life is to actually stop thinking so much about both and to do something for someone else. But I haven’t been putting that into practice lately. I’d occasionally search volunteer opportunities, but some required one or two full weeks of all day training. That was out. I couldn’t afford to miss that much of my paid job in order to volunteer! Many opportunities were for during my working hours. I’d offer to babysit for friends, have sleepovers for my daughter, leave Starbucks gift cards randomly around my office building, and figured I was at least doing small things for others, right? Yah, I know, not quite the same.

One night I walked past a coffee shop on my way to the bar next door. “...volunteer…” jumped out at me and I stopped to read the sign. Why would a coffee shop need volunteers? 

My interest was piqued, I did some research the next day and learned that this was not just another coffee shop hoping to make it against the odds. In their own words:
 “Like you, we hold the belief that people have priceless worth.  The fact that the average slave in the world today is sold for the equivalent of $90 is among our world’s greatest atrocities.  In the summer of 2009, Mark South approached Chad Salstrom with an idea.  A vision for once disconnected individuals in a fragmented city collaborating together, sacrificing from their freedom, to give the gift of freedom. Two years later, a growing community had rallied to open Origin Coffee, a place where everyone works for free to set victims free.”
 Please visit their webpage and read more about why they chose a coffee shop and how they’re empowering a movement of the people.

It still took me awhile to make the commitment. I’d forget about it for awhile, then go to Boneshakers or Little Ceasers and see the sign.  I’d look up the website and read again about the reason behind opening this business.  And in October I finally stopped reading and thinking and acted. I filled out my volunteer application! Last week I went to an orientation and watched a video on sex trafficking. I was sick to my stomach. All I could think of was my own beautiful 9-year-old daughter. Of my gorgeous 18- and 19-year-old daughters.  And then I thought of a young me searching for acceptance , attention, and love through sex and how easy it probably would have been to lure me into a life of prostitution if the “right” person had tried. “But for the grace of God…” is what my heart was screaming at me.

So I made my three month commitment: Thursday nights from 7:00 to 11:00 from December through February. I balked a little. I have several other things that occur on Thursday nights. I really wanted Monday or Wednesday nights! But there had to be a reason that was the only shift left that fit with my work schedule and the times I have Hellion.  I signed up for my three job shadow days. And I left excited about this new opportunity, about being part of something so much bigger than myself.

Last night was my first job shadow. I was so close to leaving five minutes before I was scheduled. I’d come up with a dozen plausible reasons for bailing. My anxiety was escalating quickly. Everyone behind the counter was young, laid back, at ease. I didn’t fit in! What was I thinking? No way could I spend four hours behind the counter actually interacting with people and being a cashier!  Somehow I stayed. And I can’t say it got any better over the next four hours.
Around 9:30 I was still feeling out of place, like I just didn’t belong. I was tired after a full day at my regular job. I wasn’t used to being on my feet for hours. I wanted a glass of wine, my fuzzy cozy pajamas, and my bed. I was wondering if they’d ever had someone show up for job shadowing and not come back. I felt like I was just standing around too much – I didn’t know what else to do, though, and I was already super anxious and didn’t want to interrupt conversations to ask.  I was really ready to make an excuse and go home. Maybe come back, but likely not.

Image from Aling Baby.

And then the words from orientation hit me. This is a totally sucky paraphrase but basically it was that I was sacrificing four hours of my life so that a slave could go free. Sacrifice. If it’s easy, it’s not much of a sacrifice. I was uncomfortable. I was feeling out of place, tired, a little afraid. For four hours in a safe warm inviting environment. What the hell was I complaining about? I thought about how those being traded for sex would probably long for just such an opportunity, of the emotional and physical abuse they were enduring, wondering how long they could hold on to hope. I read the dishwashing instructions on the wall and washed the dishes.  It wasn’t much, but it was something. It was a start. When I want to quit, when I'm tired and cranky and frustrated, I’ll remember that I’m the fortunate one and pray that my four hours each week are enough to help someone else get freedom for life.


  1. Oh my - you are my hero! I have read, studied and gone to lectures about the issue sex trafficking around the world. I can't tell you how highly I think of you for sacrificing yourself and your time to save someones life a world away. You should be very proud! Thank you for sharing this story.

    1. Thanks for reading! It's a challenge - I really don't want to go back this week. But I will!

  2. What a great thing to do! Good for you!
    I love the whole idea of a business devoted to charity. I hope it will catch on and spread around our nation.

  3. Dear Awkward and Random,
    Thank you for posting this. I go in to shadow someone tonight and your words are encouraging! I too couldn't help but think how young and laid back everyone was at orientation. I am just a middle - aged single mom of two boys. What do I know about working at a coffee house? Lol. I will look for those dishes to wash and keep in mind the girls who would so willingly trade spots with me if they could!