Not long ago I’d have joked about being a slave to chocolate. I’m guessing my obsession with chocolate began when I was a small child. Every Sunday after church, we were given a quarter to buy a chocolate candy bar at our small town drug store (Remember when a candy bar was only a quarter??) I loved the smells of that drug store, a combination of baseball card bubble gum and I don’t know what. The aisles were crowded with all sorts of fun stuff to smell, to see, and, to touch – when my parents’ backs were turned.
So maybe my chocolate obsession can be associated with the love I had for that store, but I also remember being in high school and the love I had for my teammates on various teams. I remember thinking I could improve my play by downing a can of Jolt and a mound of sugar, usually in the form of a King Size Milky Way. My hands literally trembled as I stood at the volleyball net, ready to explode in (what I imagined to be) a world-class block returning anything my opponent dared to attempt to slam down upon my team. Looking back with bit more information and maturity, sugaring up before games probably wasn’t the brightest move on my part, but those were the days!
My chocolate obsession continued when I was in college, during those late nighters, where I had exchanged that can of Jolt and king sized Milky Way for a bottomless mug of coffee with extra cream and sugar and an entire bag of mini Milky Ways or Twix’s or Snickers or whatever I could get my hands on.
Yep, by the end of college, I was a chocolate junkie, perhaps I would have even joked that I was a chocolate slave.
But last week, that old joke changed forever and, in the space of about ten minutes, became not nearly as funny as I’d have once thought it.
George was working on a prerequisite for a merit badge seminar he was scheduled to attend for Boy Scouts. The badge was Citizenship in the World, and part of the requirement was to research a world issue. We searched the internet to come up with something of interest to him and started looking into child labor.
But child labor quickly led us to child slavery,
And that’s when I discovered what true chocolate slavery is.
And that’s when my heart broke for these child slaves.
And that’s when chocolate lost its sweetness for me.
How could I have not known about chocolate slavery? How could I have never heard of Burkina Faso? How could I have not known that children, precious children, no older than my precious son, than the precious children of so many of my friends and family, were being taken from their poverty-striken, but loving families and sold, literally, into the arms of a foreign African capitalists where they speak different languages, use dangerous tools, teeter on the brink of starvation, and are locked up at night.
There is no one to tuck them into bed, no one to sooth their feverish heads when they are sick, no one to tend to their wounds when they slip with the machete, no one to comfort them when they are afraid of the dark – or when they are afraid of the daylight which provides no relief to their nightmarish lives.
They have no one, but each other, children all.
And when one dies, another is stolen to fill his spot – simple, cheap, cruel, heartless, wrong.
One of my favorite Maya Angelou quotes is, “You did then what you knew how to do, and when you knew better, you did better.” Well, now I now better, and that is why, this year, I have given up chocolate for Lent, but I will also give up purchasing chocolate for the rest of my life for the lives of those little children.
Do I think my Lenten sacrifice will change the world? Will I make a dent in the chocolate slave industry? The industry of stealing, buying, and selling children?
Not by myself, but if I can influence one other person and he can influence one other person, then together, with each other and with God, anything is possible.
Either way, I just suddenly don’t have the same desire to indulge in that fleeting pleasure anymore. Chocolate has lost its flavor, its sweetness, its appeal.
But still, this year I know that in giving up chocolate for Lent, I am not making a big enough sacrifice, I know instead that these mothers have made sacrifices for me, for my indulgence for years – sacrifices in the most horrific form, a form that I cannot even begin to imagine: that of their own children.
Only God knows the agony of having a suffering child, like the parent of the suffering child.
Please watch the video below. Listen to the mothers who begin speaking at 4:00 as they describe their children, the loss, and the small fragments of news they cling to. See the blankness, the masked pain on the faces of the mothers. Notice the look in the children’s eyes. Weep with me over the strength of the embrace of the reuniting of one mother and child out of many.
And to the mother in the video at 4:54 who says,
Sometimes just thinking about him makes me cry, but what can I do? I am just praying to God to keep him in good health and just give him enough to eat.
I say to you, I am also praying for your child. What more can I do?
I can give up chocolate.
And I can PRAY.
I can pray so hard for your child.
And other children sold into slavery all over the world.
And I can hug my children a little tighter every day.
And take the time to thank those who protect us here.
And to again rethink what I take for granted every day.
Please, whether you choose to give up chocolate or not, please join your prayers to mine for these children and for the mothers who love them so much.
* Fair trade chocolate has had some mixed reviews. Look into fair trade products, which may cost a bit more, but there is no comparison between the price of a chocolate bar and the price of a child’s life or the price of a mother’s love. These people have so little. I cannot ask them to give up their children so I can enjoy cheap chocolate too.
Chocolate – The Bitter Truth:
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