Two weeks ago in Ontario, the air was heavy with humidity and the temperatures were off the charts. My husband and I live in an airstream trailer – AKA hot metal oven on hot days – and our little air conditioner was working overtime…until a thunderstorm knocked out power and the heat had its way.
In the midst of the heat wave, I went to Florida for my grandpa’s 80th birthday. As I sat on the plane, I began to think of the horrific conditions that slaves had to work in during the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. In the fields of Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and Louisiana, not only would they work all day in the blistering sun, but also lacked the luxurious things we so often turn to for relief, like showers and air conditioning. I cannot imagine living my entire life as a slave in the hot south.
As I watched the clouds form into various shapes, I intentionally shut my magazine and took time to contemplate. I mentally put myself in the position of those who have been enslaved throughout the centuries. I let my mind enter the horror of watching family members die by whip, having everything I own stripped from me, having festering wounds and no salve.
The sad thing is that this is still happening around the world – in mines, in coffee and cocoa plantations, in brick factories. And also in brothels.
Andy Crouch points out that if we don’t take the time to contemplate, we begin to exploit.
If I don’t permit my mind to enter into the pain of others, I am more likely to hurt people – whether it be directly or indirectly. If I don’t carve out pockets of time to just sit and think, great ideas that have the potential to empower others may pass me by. Without intentional thought I might also begin to assume that I am the centre of the universe, which is a dangerous mindset that ultimately feeds my selfishness, comfort, and greed.
This blog itself is a result of a somewhat forced contemplation. Three years ago, Jay and I spent over a month living in a tin roofed shack by a river in the Costa Rican jungle, with no internet, no agenda, and no friends. I went stir crazy. I was bored. I was restless.
And that contemplation was the starting point for the Hope for the Sold blog. It has since served as a huge platform over the years, giving us opportunities to meet people, write magazine articles, make films, speak at events, and garner support for anti-trafficking legislation.
All because we had a season to contemplate.
But you don’t need a shack in the jungle. You don’t need to get on an airplane. You can intentionally contemplate anywhere – on the bus on your way to work, with your morning cup of coffee, or on an evening walk around the block.
But while you can contemplate anywhere, you do have to do it on purpose. By default, our minds wander and focus only on ourselves. By default, our schedules demand every moment. But I believe that we have been given the capacity to be creative about how we spend our time and our thoughts.
So take some time to think about the realities of the world and about your role within it. You might be surprised what will come of it.