Sunday, May 18, 2014

A Beam of Light

Last week as I was visiting Holly* and was immediately overwhelmed by her beaming smile.  In the four months I have known Holly, I have yet to see her without an infectious smile.  She has a zest for life, has yet to be jaded by her working environment.  As we were talking, I was realizing that Holly’s joy is in direct contrast to her surroundings.  In the midst of a dark place with little hope, she exudes joy and reminds me that there is more to each person than their current circumstances.  She is content in the middle of a sticky situation, and I greatly admire her courage and tenacity. As our time ended, I celebrated the fact that His joy can be found even in the scariest of places.  I thanked Him for reminding me that no matter what problems we face, we can choose peace and joy.  I ask that this shining light not be diminished by her circumstances, that she continue to bring joy to each person she encounters.

*Name has been change to protect her identity.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

出去 (Going Out)

This week I finished reading Leslie T. Chang's book, Factory Girls.  Factory Girls follows the stories of three teenagers who 出去, left their rural farming village to find factory work in the big city. This booked fascinated me on so many levels.  As an ex-pat I identified with the girl's struggles to establish relationships in a foreign place.  As a history/political science student I was fascinated reading the consequences of globalization when examined from the perspective of the person working in the factories that produce Nike shoes, Apple computers, and designer handbags.

Chang spent three years in the factory town of Dongguan, building relationships with the migrant workers and visiting as many factories as possible.  In the book she details each women's journey: changing jobs multiple times a year, losing contact with everyone you know when your cell phone is stolen, and changing family dynamics as they begin earning more money then their parents.  

Though I made notes throughout the book, two quotes have helped me better understand the world in which these young women live and how it parallels the lives of the women I befriend.
  •  "To stay outside and work your entire life is better than staying home."  Failure is returning home, not being able to make it in the city. Working 10-12 hour days with little time off does not matter when you are achieving success and earning more money in the city than your entire family can earn back home. [This parallels the American Dream, the ideal that through hard work and effort each generation can surpass the achievement and success of their parents.] As I have established friendships with migrant women in my city and see the demands of their jobs, I have often though "this is just not worth it." After reading this book I feel I better understand the thinking of these women and their desire to succeed.
  • "In the end we must rely on ourselves." The women who work in exploitative situations are incredibly strong, determined, and gifted women. They have the strength and courage to make a living in an extremely harsh environment. I am constantly amazed by their determination to succeed in the big city and provide for their families back in the countryside. Their ability to survive, however, comes at a price. Understandably, these women must learn to protect themselves, their hearts and emotions. High, thick walls have been built. Most of the women do not trust very easily because of failed relationships. Past hurts have taught them that other people take advantage of you, trick you, and that people ultimately cannot be trusted. You cannot rely on anyone other than yourself. While this helps them survive in their current work environment, I know that this is not the truth. We were created for community, friendship, to be in a supportive network. I ask our loving Father to guide me as I build relationships with these women. I ask that my actions will help correct the lie that people cannot be trusted. Most importantly, I long for the day when each of these precious women discover the blessing of community and healthy relationships.