"What will you do with your one wild and precious life?" - Mary Oliver

I have always collected perspectives. Along the way I collected some perspectives that hurt. A little girl is forced into prostitution, restitched to resurrect her virginity and ordered to stand with a number pinned to her dress while men peruse “menus” of available males and females. One man–a father, an uncle, a coworker–rumples his beard and leads her into a room with one mattress and cracks in the plaster. An estimated $32 billion dollars is generated annually by the sexual trafficking of human beings. Overseas, destitute families sell their daughters to scrape enough money to survive. In America, ordinary middle school and high school girls are coerced into “turning tricks” between school and dinner.

I cannot learn about that little girl or those who suffer with her and still muster an appetite for a sparkly career with A+ report cards and a cosy American Dream. Of course I imagine my name in lights, of course I want to achieve my best, but I ache for the women and children consumed by this unspeakable slavery. Academic achievement turns to dust in my mouth when I imagine the pain of modern day slaves. A paper diploma, a shifting tassel, what are these worth?

What makes them worthwhile is not the exhilaration of test cramming at one in the morning with a Monster in one fist and a mug of coffee in the other. What makes them worthwhile is not the applause at graduation, the potential career lined up and glittering, or the security of a solid paying job. What makes them worthwhile is that an education provides me the tools of knowledge and thoughtfulness that will enable me to fight the best fight I can fight. A whole education develops whims and flairs into devoted skills that can make a difference in the lives of crushed little girls.

Graduation day is artificial when compared to the joy of a young woman set free from slavery, the number torn from her clothes, counselors fighting for her healing, a weeping mother clasping the woman's hands in prayer. What does she feel as she walks down the street with the sun warm on her hair? Hers is the freedom born in Christ at Christmas. His love severs shackles.

Stories are powerful. Stories sculpt the future by crafting a world's expectations for the future. This is why dictators burn them. If a story paints the vision, people begin to imagine freedom for every slave, and they begin to make decisions that achieve that goal. I want to write one of these stories. Through novels, through essays, through speeches, through poems, I will tell a story of hope.

I want to awaken my generation and my world to the darkness that surrounds us, but also to the hope that overcomes that darkness. Organizations like Love146 rescue and cherish victims. Homes for women and children newly freed from trafficking have been created, populated with loving counselors and mentors who teach them a trade and prepare them to re-enter a world frothing with triggering chatter. Jesus Christ is the truth that floodlights the shame and deceit that pervades this dark trade in human beings. He overturns the tables of the marketplace. God's Kingdom is here, though also not here yet, and its fragrance overwhelms the decay of sin, from human trafficking to sweat factories to consumerism to road rage.

With my one wild and precious life, I endeavor to have some small part in the freedom of many wild and precious lives. I will never sacrifice justice for security. I will relish the spice of curiosity that seasons education, but will never forget education's purpose. The perspectives of broken children are saved tenderly in my heart, a quiet fire pressing me onward in the fight for freedom.