It weighed as much as a river stone, the kind that sank into Goliath’s forehead, spinning around my finger willfully like it had its own intentions. It was a ring, an engagement ring (I guess), though I’ll bet not even Queen Elizabeth has a ring like this.
It was a 77-carat yellow diamond. You read that right. Seventy-seven. SEVENTY-SEVEN CARAT YELLOW DIAMOND.
Set in white gold. Encased in thin veils of pavé diamonds with two monster baguette diamonds flanking either side, looking small by comparison, like three-year-olds patrolling a gorilla.
Its cost? Twenty million dollars. That’s TWENTY MILLION: $20,000,000.
This was Saturday night.
The man behind the counter asked that I keep my hand resting on the black velvet tray, “Not because I think you’ll run off, but just in case it falls.”
I was pretty sure this diamond had spent, oh, I don’t know, a hundred million years withstanding mounting tons of seismic pressure and therefore wouldn’t mind a short tumble onto the carpet. It’s not like it was a piece of ice that shatters on my kitchen floor when I’m not careful in the freezer. This piece of ice would break my floor, keep falling, crush a hole through the foundation of my house and travel another half mile until it found its resting place in the Temple of Doom where flying monkeys protect it with kryptonite. But I wasn’t interested in testing any “You Break It You Buy It” policy.
It was hard to hold my hand up. My ring finger was squinched between my pinky and middle fingers for support. They were now the pallbearers of a digit killed in ecstasy beneath the crushing weight of rock-star, rapper-slash-drug-cartel-billionaire Bling.
“There’s not a diamond anywhere else of its kind in the world,” he added reverently, barely coping, trying to survive in the presence of such splendor — but not without a slight edge of worry. Maybe I would pick up my floor-length dress, kick off my heels and streak into the night. Who could really say? I was a little afraid of the ring myself and of myself wearing the ring and of what I was capable of with The Ring in my possession. Maybe it had some sort of Tolkein-esque will-bending power? Turn me into a Hobbit? With furry toes? I then experienced a serious urge to beat my chest, wear unusually vivid eye shadow and sing a bar of “My Heart Will Go On.” And for those of you who know me know that was a difficult temptation to resist. But I made no sudden movements. A very small part of me suspected Nigel might whip out an oozie and blow me to Kingdom Come if I so much as gave a thumbs-up. Nope. This hand was NOT leaving the tray. (And his name might not have been Nigel. It might have been Jim-bo. But I don’t think they let Jim-bos touch 20-million-dollar yellow diamonds.)
Gordon and I were at the annual Jewel Charity Ball here in Fort Worth, an amazing event where quite a lot of jewels and quite a lot of charity are on display. Last year the ball raised about 3.7 million dollars for Cook Children’s in Fort Worth. Each year a different jeweler is selected to display their finest pieces, and the finest of the finest pieces this year was this “ring,” this crown jewel, this rarity.
I will probably never lay eyes on jewelry as valuable as that again unless I visit the Tower of London. It was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.
But it’s not worth more than a single human life.
This past Tuesday was National Human Trafficking Awareness day. You may think slavery ended with the Emancipation Proclamation 150 years ago, but the reality is three times as many people are enslaved around the world today than during the transatlantic slave trade. In America alone it is estimated that 100,000-300,000 children are forced into sexual slavery each year at the average age of 12-13, though many are even younger. You may assume the most popular destination for sex with a child is Cambodia or Thailand, but it is in fact the United States of America. The life expectancy of a child after entering the sex trade is only 7 years. Many do not reach their 18th birthday.
Most of these children (not ALL) are runaways/throwaways that predators exploit for profit in an industry that now grosses around $32 billion dollars a year, making it the second most lucrative crime in the world next to the drug trade — bigger than Nike, Starbucks and Google combined. And it’s in our own backyard: the National Human Trafficking Hotline receives more calls from Texas than any other state, 15% of which come from the D/FW area alone.
How does this happen?
Federal law defines domestic minor sex trafficking as the exchange of a sex act for anything of value — a hamburger, maybe, or a place to stay for cold and weary runaway. Prostitution of children is therefore broadly defined yet extremely clandestine. Pimps promise protection and a place of belonging, then traumatize, threaten, and brainwash their victims to make them silent and subservient. A lack of awareness in our country, coupled with the explosion of the Internet, makes the job of the pimp extremely easy and the job of law enforcement extremely difficult. Law enforcement estimates that 99% of children are never rescued.
The truth is, many adult prostitutes today were trafficked as children and never found a way to escape the system. It wasn’t their fault. Now they are stuck.
That’s why we need to talk about this. People don’t know. Maybe you didn’t know. But that’s OK. You know now.
There are several great organizations based in Dallas/Fort Worth that are actively fighting the sexual exploitation of children. One is Traffick 911 (traffick911.com). The other is Love 146 (love146.org, itsnotmyfault.org). Check them out.
Meanwhile, here are several things you can do in the next three weeks:
- January 14: Attend the screening of documentary film “The Playground” at 7 p.m. at the Palace in Grapevine
- January 23: Take part in a prayer walk event at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington at 2:30 p.m. (the Superbowl is expected to bring an even greater influx of child prostitution)
- January 28: Attend the “It’s Not My Fault” Awareness Event at Irving Bible Church at 7 p.m.
- February 5: Attend the “I’m Not Buying It” Tailgate Party, 2-4 p.m., Aristide Event and Conference Center in Mansfield (see traffick911.com for details)
- February 6: Participate in the “Anti-Pimp My Ride” auto flash mob on Superbowl Sunday (see itsnotmyfault.org for details)
Your name might not be Nigel, but you can take steps to protect an infinitely valuable, unbelievably brilliant, exceptionally unique child in 2011. And that’s every child, even the forgotten ones.