Hi! My name is Liz White. I’m 20 years old, a huge psychology nerd, and a lover of milkshakes. Here are some other things you need to know about me: I’m hyper-organized and like for things to be a very particular way. My shower routine is 12 steps and has to be done in an exact order (I have perhaps been described as “high-maintenance” once or twice). I’m not an athlete in any sense of the word. I’m also pretty shy, and I have a hard time with talking to people I don’t know. In other words, I have absolutely no business biking down the Pacific Coast and being an advocate for the anti-sex trafficking movement.
So why then, does someone like me join Pedal the Pacific and undertake this massive journey of advocacy? The short answer is that I believe in the dignity of every human being and that all people should be free of violence for the duration for their lifetime. Sex trafficking violates both of those basic tenets, so it is always something that I have been interested in joining the fight against.
The longer answer, however, is that I refuse to believe that any person is ever too small or too unqualified to make a difference. That’s a broad statement, so allow me to tell you a story that might shed some more light on what I mean.
A few weeks ago, I turned down an invitation to go out with friends after dinner. When asked why, I explained that I needed to get up early the next day and bike 20 miles as part of my training. One of my friends, who is well-acquainted with what I’m doing with Pedal, looked at me and said: “Girl, I promise you sex trafficking will still be around no matter what you do tomorrow. You’re not going to single-handedly end it by going on a bike ride”. She meant it as a joke, but it still hit me like a ton of bricks. Because she is right. Sex trafficking was still going to exist regardless of whether or not I went on that bike ride. At the end of this summer, when my teammates and I cross the finish line in San Diego, sex trafficking will still exist. I have never been blind to the enormity of sex trafficking, but in the moments after my friend said those words, I felt smaller than ever before.
That night, I went home and thought about it. I thought about all the reasons that I am unqualified to be an advocate for the anti-sex trafficking movement in this way. Here is what I came to: I may be unqualified, but I am not unable. I will never single-handedly end sex trafficking, but I am still going to give this cause everything I have. Because I believe in the dignity of every human being. And if the work that my teammates and I do is able to help restore one girl’s life at The Refuge or prevent one child from being trafficked at NCMEC, then it matters. And just as importantly, our advocacy is opening people’s eyes to the horrors of sex trafficking and educating others on what can be done to end it. My team is not the first group of people to join the fight against sex trafficking, nor will we be the last. Many will come after us, and I firmly believe that we will one day have a world where no person is for sale.
So yes, my bike and I will not single-handedly end sex trafficking. And I am absolutely still unqualified to be an advocate. But the lives of the people harmed by sex trafficking matter so deeply to me that I am finding ways to become able to do this work.
Every time that my legs hurt from training, and I’ve got the nervous sweats from talking to yet another stranger about why I’m riding a bike around campus, I think about the army of people that are in this fight with me. The girls on every Pedal team, all those who donate to Pedal and follow our cause (if you’re reading this blog- that’s you!!), and our fellow advocates in communities all across the country. None of us will end sex trafficking alone. And it won’t happen by the end of this ride. But all of us are making change, and not a single person is too small or unqualified to do so. Until all are free.