Monday, April 26, 2010

Made in Pakistan

As a big soccer family, we are in the full swing of the spring soccer season. As I lug a bag of soccer balls to the field and back nearly every day, I have noticed that all of the soccer balls are made in Pakistan. Now I don’t know exactly how the balls were made, but the image I can’t shake from my mind is one that I came across a few years back. It was a photo of a young Honduran boy – maybe 8 years old - who had fallen asleep at a dilapidated worktable as he was stitching softballs. His clothes were indistinguishable from the dirt around him. He was holding a softball in one hand and a needle in another, but he was sound asleep. My heart went out to the boy.

The photo moved me enough that I hung it up in my classroom for a few years. Now, every time I pick up a softball I think about that boy. Did I get a better price on the softball by shifting the cost to that young boy?

But those were softballs, and we don’t play much softball in our house. But tonight I decided to do a quick search about all of the “Made in Pakistan” soccer balls in my home. The top Google hits were not encouraging. It seems like getting children to sew things for us Americans is not limited to Central America.

My searches made me feel uncomfortable enough that I decided to look for some fair trade soccer balls. They were easy enough to find, but they cost more. (At you can search “soccer balls” and compare that to “fair trade soccer balls”.)

So what will I do the next time I need a soccer ball?

I hope I put my money where my mouth is.

Monday, April 12, 2010


I have been reflecting on the verb “to strive” of late. In part, I suppose, because I find myself striving so much. When my head hits the pillow at night, I simply switch from physically striving to mentally striving as I turn over new ideas in my mind. Now, while the fine line between working hard and being a workaholic is lost on me, I am smart enough to know that it matters what you are striving for. I am one who is not prone to strive for worldly things - gold, glory, and girls as Ray, a missionary in Ethiopia, once told me.

Or so I thought.

On the way home from church yesterday we were listening to “Peter and the Sword of Mercy” on CD. Having spent the morning thinking over my motives, I started a conversation around motives at lunch.

“So kids. What do you think motivates the bad guys in this story?” I asked.

“They want the Sword of Mercy!” K.D. said excitedly.

“But why?”

“So they can get the star stuff,” said K.D.

“But why do they want the star stuff?”

“Because they want to rule the world!” said Little Foot.

“Yes, they do. They want to rule the world. They want the power to make everybody do what they want them to do,” I said.

But seeking power is not my vice.

I have been telling myself, “so whether you eat, or drink, or whatever you do, do all for the glory of God.” If it is for God’s glory, then I had better do a fantastic job, I tell myself. And so I strive to do a fantastic job at all of the things that *I* have put on my plate.

But Sunday morning, as my thoughts on striving mingled with the congregation singing “I’d rather have Jesus,” I was not able to convince myself that my motives were so pure.

“I’d rather have Jesus than men’s applause,” we sang.

“Glory,” I could hear Ray saying. One of the three things we men strive for.

So do I strive to do things well for God’s glory or for my own? I fear that is another line that is lost on me.

Lord, help me to live for Your glory and not my own.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Clutter 2

OK, this anti-junk thing could get addicting. Since it was Easter weekend, none of the soccer teams were practicing. With a chunk of our Saturday morning free, I decided to motivate the kids to reduce the clutter in our house even more.

“Family meeting!” I called out shortly after breakfast. “Let’s go!”

The kids descended on the family room from all corners of the house. “I love family meetings,” Anna said as she found a spot on the couch.

“Here is the deal. You guys have to bring me 100 items this morning to either throw out or give away,” I announced. The moans and questions started rolling in.

“What if I want to get rid of something, but someone else does not?”
“What if a toy has several pieces? Does each piece count?
“Is it only toys, or do clothes count?”

After clarifying some rules, I upped the ante.

“Now, if you are able to find 200 things, I will give each of you a dollar.” Little Foot and K.D. perked up, but the rest of the kids did not really think the extra work would be worth a dollar.

“If you are able to find 300 things, then I will take all of you to Graeter’s.” The kids erupted like they had won the lottery. Obviously, ice cream is a real motivator in our home.

“If we get 400 things, can we go to Graeter’s AND get a dollar?” asked Little Foot, sensing that the time was right to get even more out of dad.

“Sure,” I replied.

So the kids ran off. It was striking to me with the apparent effortlessness that the kids generated well over 300 items. They would have gone for 400, but CrazyMom and I had had enough for the morning. Here is some of the junk.

We nearly filled a large green garbage can as well as a large box to give away. After lunch we headed out to our favorite ice cream shop. Spending $20 on ice cream normally drives me nuts. But this time I was all smiles.