Because it has turned out that discussions about community often end up being discussions of our broken world, I’ve found myself writing about capitalism, consumerism, world poverty, and other social and economic injustices. These are both local concerns–no matter where you live, they’re local concerns–and global concerns. It seems appropriate to begin listing helpful resources I’ve found as I’ve been thinking through these concerns. This list is a work-in-progress, but at least it’s a start.

Helpful Resources

Better World Shopper: “a site dedicated to providing people with a comprehensive, up-to-date, reliable account of the social and environmental responsibility of every company on the planet AND making it available in practical forms that individuals can use in their everyday lives.” Sure, it’s a lofty goal, but I appreciate what they’re trying to do. Click on “the rankings” and then “product rankings.”

Fair Trade Gifts: More and more companies are beginning to offer “fair trade” goods, especially in industries like cocoa and coffee, which have been notorious for the ongoing slave labor of children. But what about other things that we buy? How can we know if it’s okay? Well, the truth is, if we buy it cheap, it’s probably got a tainted supply chain. And that goes for big-chain-grocery-store produce, too. These are difficult decisions, and every shopping trip forces us to make sacrifices (which is when Better World Shopper comes in handy). One small step in the right direction is to purchase items like gifts from companies operating under fair trade principles. I recently learned about Greenheart, a Chicago-based company working to be “fair to producers, good to the earth,” by combining fair trade practices with sustainability practices. Another company I’ve supported quite a bit with my gift-purchasing habits is Ten Thousand Villages, a nonprofit program of the the Mennonite Central Committee and “one of the world’s largest fair trade organizations and a founding member of the World Fair Trade Organization.” I’m sure Google would turn up many other companies just like these. Additionally, make an effort support local small businessowners in your own community. For example, there are two coffee shops in my small town, and both of them offer fair trade gifts and local, regional goodies that make great gifts. Why not buy a pound of locally roasted, fair trade coffee for that special someone on your list, instead of a Starbucks gift card?

Good & Fair Clothing: Fair trade underwear? For real? Check out how the owners of Good & Fair Clothing describe the work that they do– “we are dedicated to using only fair trade and organic materials. We ensure fair wages for cotton farmers and garment workers internationally, as well as provide resources for those fighting to get out of poverty within our own community. Operating this way is challenging for sure, but we believe it’s work worth doing.” Read more about their mission here. (If you aren’t sure about this whole “fair trade” thing, be sure to check out the links about human trafficking below.)

Human Trafficking: I care a lot about this topic, and thankfully, there are a multitude of places to which you can turn to learn more about it. Here are a handful of websites I’ve found that offer information about (and resources for combating) the modern-day, worldwide slave trade. If you have no idea what I mean by “modern-day, worldwide slave trade,” you need to visit these sites, which offer regular informative posts, FAQs, and practical ways to make a difference in this overwhelming and gut-wrenching issue. For general information, you can turn to The Freedom Project at CNN,, Free the Slaves, or the Polaris Project. Additionally, Not-For-Sale gets a lot of press thanks to David Batstone’s book of the same title, and they’ve launched Free2Work, a growing database that ranks companies based on their supply chain transparency. Call+Response is both an informative website and a music-based documentary about human trafficking. Call+Response also partners with Chain Store Reaction, a site that offers opportunities for contacting particular stores and brand names about certifying that their goods are not tainted by slavery. The site also documents what brands/stores have responded to requests for transparency of their ethical practices–and which ones have not. Invisible Children focuses on child soldiers in Uganda, The Dark Side of Chocolate is the website for a documentary about child slave labor used in the cocoa industry, and Fair Trade USA is a good resource to figure out what it really means to buy a certified fair trade product.

Consp!reConsp!re is a quarterly “magazine committed to building relationships and nurturing those trying to follow the way of Jesus. It is supported by a network of communities, groups, and individuals. Each issue explores the questions of faith that arise from living for justice and as part of the body.” Here’s how they explain the title: Consp!re means breathing together. We believe the reign of God is about relationship and living with imagination. Consp!re also means plotting together—and we are plotting goodness. We yearn to do small things with great love, interrupting injustice with grace, and transforming ugliness to beauty.”

Worldometers: “world statistics updated in real time.” So even if “real time” should be in additional quotation marks because the stats are based on calculations that have been broken down into averages, it’s still quite startling to watch the numbers ticking away. Included here are population stats (births, deaths, etc.), as well as environmental and economic consumption patterns, food and health statistics, media usage patterns, access to water and other natural resources, and government spending.


Some movies about community

The fact that the first three movies that come to my mind as being about community are also movies that I would list among my top three of all time probably says something about me. I don’t know what. Someday I hope to write up blurbs about why these are such great movies. But for now, a list is all I’ve got:

Lars and the Real Girl (2007)
Lost in Translation (2003)
The Station Agent (2003)

M. Night Shyamalan also deals with some pretty complex “community” thematics in Lady in the Water (2006), The Village (2004), and Signs (2002).

And here’s another one: Sweet Land (2005)


Some Poems about Community

A Short Testament, by Anne Porter

Perhaps the World Ends Here, by Joy Harjo

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