An Everyday Kind of Justice
Melissa Watson is a Noonday Ambassador and dread-locked mother of three in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Recently, Melissa had the opportunity to travel with a group of her fellow Ambassadors to Guatemala, where her long-time love of social justice was transformed into something even more real and immediate. Read on as Melissa shares her thoughts on pursuing quiet, simple justice in our day to day lives.
Just over a year ago, I was deeply wrestling with my life. I had given birth to our youngest daughter in late May, making me a mother of three girls four and under. The shift from wife into mother had come with many challenges – not the least of which was feeling disconnected from the world outside of my children. I knew that the work of motherhood was an honor, and I loved my small children, but there was a part of my heart that was desperate to be connected to something outside of my home. Then, in the summer of 2015, my husband went to Guatemala for 10 days. His trip was part of a class on social justice for his master’s program, and his days there would shift the trajectory of our family.
My husband and I both grew up overseas – I was born and raised in Kenya, and he spent time all over the African continent, but many of his formative years in Madagascar. These years, for both of us, created a desire to be involved in vulnerable communities. As a married couple, we were involved in sponsoring children and supporting many people and organizations serving in other nations. But when my husband came home from his trip, he was passionate that there were different ways our family was meant to engage a larger story of justice.
That was nearly one year ago. I had reached a crucial juncture in my mothering and at the same time my family was exploring new ways to make an impact from where we were in our lives. It was during this season that I was introduced to Noonday Collection, and decided to launch my own Ambassador business. When I first became an Ambassador, I was excited for what it meant for our family’s involvement in a global story – but I didn’t truly grasp how much it would be woven into our lives.
It was recently said, “Justice is not only the absence of oppression – it is the presence of opportunity”. This past year has been eye-opening for me in discovering just all the ways that business can be a key to pursuing social justice. I used to think that social justice was limited to engaging some of the great tragedies of our world – combing the streets to rescue women in sex slavery, or being a lawyer who engaged the legal system for the oppressed. And I was disheartened that my life as a mother in a small city did not afford me these opportunities.
But this past year has taught me about a quieter form of social justice that engages people before they find themselves in the worst places of vulnerability – the creation of dignified jobs for people who need them most. It is a type of justice that might not be lauded as quickly, but it is so important, because it means fighting for women just like me who love their children and want to provide a better life for them, who want to celebrate their art and fight for the communities they love. It is a simple justice, the provision of dignified jobs, but a crucial one.
At Noonday Trunk Shows, this simple justice meets women in their living rooms here in the US, and gives them a chance to become part of a global story of hope. My Trunk Shows will never make the nightly news. They aren’t flashy. But they are full of ordinary, incredible women who open their homes to create a global marketplace for Artisan Entrepreneurs – incredible individuals who are affecting slow and beautiful change in their communities and families around the world.
During my recent trip to Guatemala with Noonday, I was honored to meet some of these incredible men and women, tied to thousands of years of proud and painful history as Mayans, one of the most powerful cultures that have ever existed. Their history of weaving and creating goes back to long before any Europeans landed on the continent. (In fact, one of our fall scarves, we were told, has revived a complicated form of weaving that hasn’t been practiced for over a decade!)
I often tell women that my job is to “tell stories and build bridges”. For many years, I looked around for the stories of engaging social justice in big and bold brushstrokes. Instead, I found a quiet justice that meets me in the everyday – in the way I choose to purchase my accessories. It is like a slow-growing vine, gently creating beauty and transforming place and people.
A year ago I signed up to become an Ambassador – looking for space to engage social justice. This year I have my hands deep in the ordinary and beautiful work of helping women right in my city understand how dignified work provides a quiet and powerful justice, and how they can become part of that story with their purchasing power. Now if that’s not the best job in the world, I don’t know what is.
Want to travel with us next year? Launch your Ambassador business and you could earn a trip to visit our Artisan Partners across the globe!