The following is written by guest blogger Mikka McCracken. Mikka served as an ELCA World Hunger Intern in 2008 and is currently working at the ELCA in the Justice for Women department.
“Trafficking is a change in your situation, not necessarily your location.” “Human trafficking is one of the top three, international organized crimes.” “I am excited to work for the church, because I get to think about the root causes of human trafficking, like patriarchy, sexism, and racism.” “Rip out your phone book pages!” “Little things matter. Know what it is, and say something.”…and on, and on, again, and again…
I never got tired of it. I said my “spiel” to every wayward person who came by the Justice Town Human Trafficking Post Office. I talked to young people, youth group leaders, pastors, bishops, and sheriff deputy chaperones. I learned, I am inspired, I am uplifted, and I consider my time at the 2009 ELCA Youth Gathering in New Orleans a great success. Here are some things that I learned.
I learned that we cannot underestimate young people. They care. They want to make a difference. I am still in the category of young person, and I underestimated my peers. I will not do that again.
I learned that little things do matter. I stood at the human trafficking booth all day and told young people the little things matter. That night for dinner, some other staff members and I went to eat at a restaurant. To get there, we walked up Bourbon Street and then took a left instead of walking up the parallel street and to the right. I felt like a fool. Here I am, telling young people it’s the little things we do, and I can’t even take a different street to get to where I’m going to make sure that my foot traffic isn’t giving Bourbon a sense of legitimacy. It’s the little things. I truly believe that.
I learned that success is not only measured in numbers. I would estimate that I talked, in depth, with about 100 people during my time in Justice Town at the Gathering. When you count that there were 37,000 people there, I interacted with only about .0027% of the people. However, young people stood around the human trafficking station for 15, 20, 30 minutes. They asked questions and made connections to popular movies like Taken, the Human Trafficking television show, Slumdog Millionaire, and August Rush. When they found out what trafficking was, they mentioned things they’d seen at the airport when they landed, on Bourbon Street, and in their home towns. I watched all day as ‘light bulbs’ went on.
One group took the black and white, two-sided business cards with the National Human Trafficking Hotline number on the back and tried to tape them to massage parlor windows on Bourbon Street on the way back to their hotel. They came back the next day to tell me, and, apparently, saw two people following behind them the whole way taking the cards down. But, they did it, albeit, a little more dangerous than I would like to encourage, but they did it.
I learned that trafficking might be a darker, drearier, scarier reality in our world, but Lutherans care! Thanks be to God that we are blessed to serve in this way, and that we are called to constantly learn from one another.