But I do have a night job.
Why was I heading in to wait tables with a ginormous Red X on my hand? I think this video does a better job explaining it than I can.
Before I moved to the Milwaukee area, I was blissfully ignorant of issues like human trafficking. Since arriving here, getting plugged in to our church, and speaking to the incredible women I have the privilege of calling friends, I was shocked to find out how much of a huge issue this is.
The fact of it is that Milwaukee has a slavery problem. And it's not just Milwaukee, but it's places like Whitewater, Janesville, and other "regular" towns where children and young women are hidden in the shadows, held captive in seemingly safe communities as sold as commodities on Craigslist.
Only a few weeks ago, a 13 year old girl walking down the street was kidnapped and held for a week against her will. Forced into sex acts by her captor, she was hidden in an upstairs apartment and made to "work the streets" at night. When police came knocking on the door looking for her, she was forced to hid and her life was threatened if she showed herself.
In July of 2013, there was a huge trafficking sting in Milwaukee that led to 10 girls being rescued from sex slavery and the arrest of 100 people. These are people, children, being bought and sold as slaves and forced to do the unthinkable.
Heck, there's even an app for that! Apps like Tinder are solid gold for human traffickers since they show the precise location and photo of any user with a smartphone that has installed the app on their phone. They can give a "thumbs up" to the young girl's photo and then schedule a meet-up. The girl may think she's going to meet the cute 17 year old boy she saw on her smartphone, but end up being taken prisoner by the 52 year old sex trafficker.
Not a movie. Real life. And in my backyard.
But what can be done?
My friend Jessie is very passionate about this issue and she works closely with Exploit No More, an organization based in Milwaukee that is committed to ending child sex trafficking. As they explain on their website, "Exploit No More exists to reflect Christ’s love by working to eradicate child sex trafficking in the Greater Milwaukee area. Our primary purpose is to empower—to empower children rising out of sex trafficking through aftercare, to empower everyday citizens to turn their passion for this issue into action, and to empower the voices of communities and victims to advocate for sound anti-trafficking laws and policies."
Now that sounds like something I can get behind.
So when I heard about the End It Movement and how February 27th was going to be a day to shine a light on slavery, I knew it was my chance to really do something, even if it was only in a small way. So I drew the X on my hand and I went to work. I decided that for every table that asked me about the huge X on my hand, I would donate the entire gratuity I earned from that table to Exploit No More. In addition, I would explain to that table why I was wearing the X, what it represented, and what I planned to do about it.
The Bad News - I had a rough night at work where I wasn't able to turn my tables thanks to a whole lot of people being "sitters," so I ended up only having my very first table inquire about the X.
The Good News - That table left a tip of $32 which has already been donated to Exploit No More.
The Better News - Nearly every person I worked with last night asked me why I had a huge red X on my hand. I got to tell the story of the 27 million people around the world who are still enslaved in some way. I got to shine a light on the countless young girls who are being held in the shadows and forced to service 30 men a night, wondering if they will ever be free again. I got to open some eyes to the fact that slavery still exists, that is more prevalent than ever before in human history, and that it is happening right here and right now. One of my co-workers got goosebumps as I talked and started writing down the information I was telling her because she has a passion for advocacy and is currently in school working toward a career fighting against issues just like this.
I don't know about you, but when I look around and see issues like slavery, poverty, homelessness, addictions, and the countless other problems our world is infected with, I feel powerless. I feel like my influence is so small that nothing I can do could possibly make even the slightest bit of difference.
But I'm learning that doing SOMETHING is far better than standing by and doing NOTHING. It might not be a huge donation, but it can still be a gift from the heart. What would happen if everyone did their own small something? Knowing what God can do, can you even imagine what might result?
So I spoke. I shared. I gave what I committed to give. It's small, but it may end up to be very significant.
Because what if that woman currently waiting tables in the section next to me had a fire lit in her heart last night? What if she graduates and gets a job and someday down the line goes to war for those girls? What if she saves even one life?
Wouldn't that be worth it?
I'm in it to END IT.
If not us, then who? If not now, then when? It's time for us to do something.