Dec 7, 2010

Last week I had the opportunity to go to New York City with my mom and my daughter. Our excuse for going was an invitation by a friend, Shayne Moore (check out her book Global Soccer Mom) to attend a World Vision breakfast where Laura Bush was the keynote speaker. What a wonderful excuse to go to NYC! In preparing for our trip, I went on Facebook where I asked what would one recommend to do with a 9 year old in NYC. I had all kinds of answers from The American Girl Doll Store, Statue of Liberty, National History Museum, to ice skating. However, the most popular answer (5 out of 23 people told me this was a must) was Dylan’s Candy Bar store. I had never heard of it, but discovered that Ralph Lauren’s daughter, Dylan, opened this amazing candy store on the corner of 60th and 3rd Ave.

For my daughter, it was a dream come true – a three level candy store with candy on every step and the wallpaper in rainbows of treats. The logo is as cute as any I’ve seen and it was packed with all kinds of fun candy.

On the steps

wall paper

For me, however, I just couldn’t enjoy it all until I found out whether they sold any fair trade products. I know, fair trade, doesn’t mean slave free, but it is a good step in the direction and many places now carry fair trade products. I figured the owner, who is a Duke University graduate and who probably lived the life of many opportunities, would carry fair trade candy in some part of her store. So I asked. The first person I asked was a delightful woman who worked behind the chocolate counter. I asked her, “Do you carry any fair trade chocolate?” With a big smile she responded, “What is fair trade chocolate?” I began to explain and then she asked, “How do you spell it?” She really never had heard of it. I then took another 5 minutes and explained what I know (which really isn’t much) about the documentary on BBC that I watched on how cocoa beans are harvested and how chocolate is one of many products that is linked with slavery. She couldn’t believe it. I then asked two more employees if they knew if their store carried any fair traded products. One person pointed to a section of organic products and allergy related products, like for those with peanut allergies.

As much as our time at Dylan’s Candy Bar will be a favorite memory of my daughters, for me it will be bittersweet. I wanted to be that kid in a great big colorful candy store and delight in all of its treasures, but I couldn’t fully enjoy myself. With knowledge comes responsibility, but to be honest, it isn’t always easy. I didn’t educate my daughter in the store on chocolate and how it is linked to slavery, but I did tell her that I wasn’t going to buy her any chocolate, but instead she could pick out some gummy candy or lollipops. Later I realized that sugar also is linked through some sugar cane fields in Argentina or Brazil – I can’t remember the latest I read.

I refuse to be overwhelmed by the complexities of the realities of Modern Day Slavery; instead I will respond with what I know and remember that with knowledge comes not only responsibility, but also power. I do have buying power and I can choose to not spend a dollar on a bar of chocolate that is not fair trade and instead buy a $2 bar of fair trade chocolate. The lenses of stewardship and economic responsibility begin to change for me. A letter to Dylan’s Candy Bar is in my near future.