Monday, October 10, 2011

Goodbye, Chocolate.

I wouldn’t quite say that I have been a chocoholic, that is, addicted to chocolate, but I have enjoyed chocolate treats over the years. I remember craving chocolate when I was pregnant with Joshua, sharing Easter treats with the kids, and getting excited about visiting the Lindt factory outlet in Kittery, Maine, when we travelled south.

Sometimes, I’m sure that even though PMS is a thing of the past, my body still tricks itself into craving chocolate at least once a month. Old habits can be hard to break -- but not always.

If you had asked me a year ago if I could ever give up chocolate altogether, I would likely have responded with “It’s hard to say, but why would I ever want to? I mean, we’re talking chocolate... Chocolate pudding, brownies, chocolate milk, chocolate ice cream, Lindt hazelnut chocolates, ChocoCherry Love Blizzards from Dairy Queen... what’s not to love? Well, other than the affects it has on the weight scale!”

And don’t get me started on Nutella....

This past year, having grown increasingly aware of the realities of child slavery and getting involved in putting an end to slavery in Ghana, has caused my heart to see the world through different eyes.

The documentaries I saw a few nights ago on the cacao industry of West Africa has completely changed how I view chocolate. Nearly three quarters of the world’s cacao bean production happens along the West Africa coast, especially in Cote D’Ivoire and Ghana. In those countries, thousands of children are enslaved in the cacao industry in order to keep up with the lucrative chocolate industry demands.

These children, many of them taken from other countries such as Mali or Burkina Faso, work up to 100 hours a week in remote areas, away from the world’s eyes. They are poorly fed, unable to attend school, beaten, and never see any profit from their exploitation – their cycle of poverty unbroken.

Just like the children of Lake Volta.

Suddenly, chocolate isn’t so sweet.

I am aware that saying goodbye to chocolate isn't enough. It’s all too simplistic to say that it will make a difference or an impact or help stop slavery. Child slavery is so much more complex than a consumer demand and indulgence issue, and chocolate isn’t the only product that has been darkened by child slavery.

Yet, just as I shared in Left Behind, "I consider that sometimes, the difference we can make seems so small and seemingly insignificant... but even when we can not do much, we must not shy away from the little we can do."

No, my choice is personal -- a personal matter of the heart, a personal experience of conscience, of conviction, of priorities. The same happened with my choice of music to listen to, the choice to not watch TV, and more -- a simple shift of perception that told my heart "It is not well with my soul."

Long after the decision was made, I read a statement one of the child slaves shared with any who would hear him. "Tell them when they are eating chocolate, they are eating my flesh." That was all the affirmation I needed to know that for me, this was the right decision.

Goodbye, Chocolate.