So many of my purchases have come from China, a few from India, Vietnam or sometimes the United States, but most are from places far from my home. Rarely do I stop to think about the very real people that make the food, clothes, furniture or appliances that I bring home. But today, I stopped for a second to thank that unknown woman somewhere in Indonesia who sits at a sewing machine. Does she work slow or fast? Does she ever get a raise? Does she have dreams for her life?
Years ago I worked with a head injury rehabilitation company as a job coach. My client was a young man who survived a terrible car accident and could no longer master his former occupation. So I helped him find a job that required minimal skills sweeping in a clothing factory. For several weeks we both went into a factory where women rushed out to go home as we were entering in mid-afternoon. The clothing in that small factory was destined for delivery to the chain of a well-known large discount department store. The manager showed us around the floor where Sam would work, and chatted for a few minutes on some days. There was no air conditioning in the building, so in the summer the women came to work at 3:00 or 4:00 AM so they could leave by noon before the worst heat. All year they worked long hours in a large noisy, dusty room.
My client didn’t last long sweeping at the clothing factory. He managed slow work with a broom around rows of sewing machines. He and his family believed that sweeping was beneath his dignity and it messed up their routine. I have not forgotten our weeks at the factory nor the women that sit at noisy machines making our linens and clothing. Perhaps they will soon be replaced by robots or other machines. But for now I wonder about the life of No. 27 somewhere in Indonesia. I wish I could tell her “thank you” and that I really like my jeans.
Questions for personal journaling or group discussion:
1. What was your first paying job and what did you learn from that experience?
2. What forms of manual labor provide for your lifestyle, clothing or meals?
Karen Spruill writes from Orlando, Florida.© 2002 - 2023, AnswersForMe.org. All rights reserved. Click here for content usage information.