Almsgiving is one of the most prominent aspects of our Faith’s Lenten practice. We all know that Lent is a time to give more than our norm, and I think most of us earnestly desire to follow through on that call. But for many of us living in seasons of life when our budgets are stretched to maximum capacity with all of our time, treasure, and talent already fully invested, figuring out how to do even more can feel overwhelming.
But what if there was a way to give alms during Lent by incorporating a bit of intention into the ways we already invest our stretched dollars and full minutes?
Giving Alms By Changing the Way We Shop
Changing our consumer habits is one way we can create space in our life to give more without having to actually fit another thing on the payment schedule or the calendar. It is a simple shift in perspective to see that the purchases we make can create a more humane, compassionate culture in our world.
By shifting some of our spending budget to ethically sourced, fairly-priced products, we can use the Lenten call to giving alms as an opportunity to create a long-lasting shift in our lives. This approach honors human dignity and has a big impact on the world. It only requires us to care enough to stop and think a bit, break our routine, and assume a new behavior because we see the value in it. This, I think, is the Kingdom Christ proclaimed with His words and His life.
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Ways to Give Alms by Shopping Ethically
So what might it look like to give alms this way during Lent, and hopefully beyond? Well, think about the purchases you make daily along with the seasonal purchases you typically make during Lent.
What if you committed to only purchasing coffee labeled Fair Trade?
How about filling your Easter basket with Fair Trade chocolate and gifts made by organizations that empower workers?
What if you looked for ethically sourced clothing options for your family’s Easter outfits this year. And if you can’t purchase everything in that way, what if you shopped with intention to replace one item per family member?
Giving Alms and Global Impact
How does this kind of almsgiving effect the world? Well, this article, which discusses the reality of wages for factory workers in Bangladesh, brings the idea home:
If people start to think, “I don’t only need to buy cheaply but I need to buy responsibly,” that is when things will start to change. When customers say, “I will only buy a sustainable product that has been made responsibly,” the entire supply chain will change, because the market rules. It is the customer who is the king.
In our Faith, we know we are inferred a kingly right and role in our Baptism. The way we use our consumer power is a reflection of this kingship. This Lent, we have a chance to give dignity to our brothers and sisters as our alms. And really, is there anything better to give?
Ethical Shopping Guides
If you are not sure where to begin with sourcing ethically-produced products, there are multiple guides available online. I love this Ethical Consumers Buyer’s Guide page because it is comprehensive and easy to navigate. Catholic Relief Services provides some great guidance on their Ethical Trade page as well. For tons of ideas for Fair Trade Gifts, I have curated this Pinterest board. And to help you snag that perfect ethically-sourced Easter dress, try this one.
Let’s help each other on this journey. Lent is a time to go a little slower in your life and to pay attention, because salvation is near. What if we used that time to whisper the same message to workers and families across the globe with the way we invest our money?
What are your questions or comments about shopping ethically? What are your favorite fairly-sourced products to share?
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Colleen Mitchell is wife to Greg and mother to five amazing sons here on earth. They serve in Costa Rica where they run the St. Francis Emmaus Center, a ministry that welcomes indigenous mothers into their home to care for them pre and postpartum. She is the author of Who Does He Say You Are. Find out more about her here.