The other day someone asked, “So, why did you write a novel about Human Trafficking?”
I paused before I answered. I guess because I didn’t intend for Paint Chips to be about human trafficking. Or because it’s such a difficult topic.
That is a question I’ve been contemplating all weekend. I decided to share a story with you. A real story. Something that I saw while I was in the middle of writing the novel.
At the time, I worked as a Freedom Fighter for Better Way Imports. Really, it was a direct marketing gig. But I had the honor of selling items made by women who had been rescued from the brothels and red light areas of countries such as India, Cambodia, and Thailand. I’d speak about the evils of sex trafficking in those other lands. Then, the guests would purchase items, the money from the sales enabling those rescued women to have a job.
It was a pretty awesome job.
One night, I had one of my events all the way on the north side of Grand Rapids. I remember that the night was so cold that it hurt. After the event, I took a sip from my insulated mug of coffee that had been in my van. The cream in the coffee had turned to ice. That cold.
Along the way home, I got a bit lost. I couldn’t seem to find the entrance for the high way, so I took Division. I knew that road would lead me home.
Division has a bad reputation. It probably has deserved it over the years. It can be a pretty tough street. Especially at night. My clock told me that it was after 11 at night. So, I double and triple checked my door locks.
As I drove along, I noticed that not many people were out. Pretty much just me and the occasional police squad car.
But then, ahead of me, I saw something moving. Like something moved back and forth off to the side. As I got closer, I realized that it was a bag or purse that someone was swinging. That someone was standing on the corner.
“It is too cold to be out like that,” I thought.
Then, I realized that it was a woman. A girl. And the way she looked into my van, I knew that she was looking for a “date”. She looked right at me, then turned her head when she realized that I was a woman.
But, in that flash of eye contact, I realized that she was far too young. More girl than woman. I knew the statistics. That, even in my own city, the average age of a prostituted person was 14 years old.
That doesn’t mean that younger girls aren’t out there.
And I knew that the youngest of them don’t walk the “track”.
But this girl sure looked young.
And I couldn’t help her. To stop and pick her up could have put both of us in danger. I had no idea where I would have taken her. What I would have said.
Half an hour before, I had advocated for women around the world. Thousands of miles away. I’d actually helped them.
But, in that moment, driving past that girl, I was powerless.
I cannot tell you the gut clench I get even remembering the hard look in her eyes. And that I was powerless to do anything.
What I can do is write. To be a voice for that girl. To tell a story that might be at least a little similar to hers. So that people won’t just drive by, thinking that she’s dirty. Or that she’s a sinner. Or that she chose that life.
No one chooses that life.
At least no one I’ve met who has walked that track.
I didn’t want to write a novel about Human Trafficking.
I wanted to write a novel about a couple of survivors. Survivors who never stopped being human, even as slaves. Survivors who were deeply and wonderfully loved by their God.
Just like we’re loved by Him.
Because I hope…really hope…that the girl I saw on the below freezing night has become a survivor. That somehow she has felt the love of her Father.
And that she is safe. And free.