Photo by Blake Reynolds

Legacy. For better or worse, everyone has one. My hope is for my children to dream big for themselves and the world in which they live. My goal is to equip them for lives that inspire them and that impact their communities. Excitingly, “community” is broader than it has ever been, and the tools for influence are more varied and nuanced as well. As a mother, I want the best for my children; I want their lives to be better, for their choices to be wide and varied, for the world to be open to them. It’s the same for many mothers I’ve met, but the scope of “better” varies.

Aadita is a 29-year-old mother of two boys. Her eldest is a school aged; the younger starts school next year. She has been married for more than a decade to an abusive alcoholic who recently stopped working. Concerned about her family, Aadita came to one of our partner sewing centers in India in search of sewing classes that would allow her to work from her home. What she found instead has been life-changing for her. Because of the partnership with Sudara, Aadita’s center is able to provide steady employment for her and the other women of their community, and with her job, Aadita has become the breadwinner in her family, paying for basics and providing for her boys’ educations. She communicates the significance of her work in this:

“I feel like I’m being exposed to a bigger world. Just now I am knowing what the world is all about.”

When Aadita talks about her sons, she speaks like any mother who wants more for her children, but the changes she is making in her home are far more reaching than that. Children who grow up in homes with abuse are far more likely to abuse their spouses or to be abused. Seeing an empowered mother who is taking steps to better both her life and theirs sends her sons a message that is countercultural in India: women are strong, they are capable, they are able to meet life and excel in it. Every step Aadita takes to better the life of her family today improves her family’s future: educated sons who respect their mother as a woman and a person will one day be men with a wider, more balanced view of women and what they can accomplish.

As I listen to Aadita, I see common ground. The goal for both of us is to create opportunities for our children that can change the world they live in. My space in this search differs, though, in that my children already have access to excellent education; they live with an expectation of attending college; they dream big and know that we have every anticipation that they will be able to accomplish anything they choose. My quest as a mother is less about whether or not my children can access the best the world has to offer and is more about how they will be their best for the world.

I can equip my children for lives of impact in direct, hands-on ways in my community serving the needs of the people who share our space. They know what it looks like to serve a meal, to provide for those who have less, to give support and encouragement to people who are struggling. Opportunities for these types of serving are all around us, but there are other ways to change the world that are less tangible though no less important. In our house, we call it “voting with our dollars.” Every day we walk forward with choices about how we will spend the money we have to meet the needs and desires we recognize. Every person has limited resources and how we spend ours matters. This is an important lesson to teach my children. When I choose to spend money with companies who, like Sudara, are investing in people and principle instead of chasing a bottom line, every dollar is a vote for humanity and for humanely interacting with the people around me. Every dollar says, “It is worth it to me to pay a fair price, so another person can earn a fair wage; that person and their work are valuable to me.”

As I make such choices with my money and teach my children how even the small, daily choices we make matter to the bigger picture, I partner with Aadita to send her sons to school; I stand beside her as she works to break the cycles of poverty and violence in her home; she and I stand together and say,

“this is dignified work, and we are both better for it.”

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