April, 7 2011 – The Cost of Beauty
Rev. Melissa K. DeBono
I don’t know what my shoes cost, even the new ones with the shiny wedge heel and the faux snake skin wrapping around my foot. I know that I paid $20. The bright red sticker on the bottom announced that great shopping victory. I love them, but I don’t know what they cost.
Someone mixed the potent vat of chemicals to be spun into a leather-like concoction of plastic. I don’t know where he slept on the night he worked for me. Someone manned the machines which cut the shapes that became my shoe. I don’t know if he had a decent breakfast on the morning that he worked for me. Someone fitted the pieces together for my shoe, and I don’t know if she could afford a doctor to attend a reaction she might have to the glue that now holds my shoe together. A whole crew left home and family behind and escorted my shoe across pirate-threatened waters. I am not sure that their vessel was outfitted with the safety equipment to ensure their safe return.
On the shores of this country a truck driver carried my shoe a great distance and his children went to bed many nights without his kiss so that they might live off his paycheck. In the shop someone else risked an already ailing back to wheel the tall stack of shoes to the sales floor. Week after week a crew of saleswomen rung up purchases that exceed their rent for the month, until finally placing the bright red sticker on the sole which launched the the shoes into my shopping cart. Someday long after I am dead, a newborn child will carry the contamination of my decomposed shoe in her veins.
They really are lovely shoes. But what do they cost? The prophet measures the cost of beauty in the King’s palace in the lives he trampled to attain it. I measure the cost of the beauty in my life by the dollars that I spend. Is God asking me to adopt another measure? This Lent, as we learn to live with less, can we learn to make the permanent sacrifices necessary to live justly? Can we learn to pay for beauty, or even for bread and for drink in ways that are truly beautiful? It may be impossible to discover the global footprint of every item that we purchase, but perhaps we can find one new way to impact the world for good with our purchases. Maybe God requires us to shop justly.
God of Everything, Show me how to live in a way that honors your creation. Strengthen me to avoid what I selfishly want. Give me the will to participate in justice, even when it cost me something. Amen