Over here, everyone works on Thanksgiving Day, American expats alike. So the fact that I’m writing this several days after Thanksgiving is not totally off as most celebrated it this past weekend. On Thanksgiving Day, I did eat turkey (yes, however rare, there is turkey in Niger), mashed potatoes and stuffing. And was it good.
But that was never the entire point of the day, really. Thanks, gratitude, are the accompaniment of those cherished traditions with family and friends. And we all know this and have heard of it before. But I wanted to talk about gratitude in Niger. Not about materialism, not about what they don’t have or even what they do have. But about gratitude and the heart in the here and now.
On Thanksgiving Day, I had the privilege of travelling to two villages with the team here, focusing on an animal husbandry project. I visited the Gourmantché peoples for the first time and marveled at the beauty of the women, the curiosity and tender heartedness of the children, and the toothless smiles of the old men.
The thing about gratitude is that it’s a personal thing really. Gratitude comes when we least expect it, even when we do. No one can tell you to have it. No one can give it to you long-term. It’s a choice; you have to accept it and marvel in it. Being thankful doesn’t come on Thanksgiving Day, neither Christmas Day or even on your wedding day. It comes now; it comes when you choose to see all that is in front of you. When you remember those gifts from above and your heart brims over with joy, love, and graciousness. Thanksgiving is constant remembering of the past so that we may look more lovingly and hopefully on the now and future.
What I cherish about photography is its ability to capture those small moments, those moments that ultimately bring me back on my knees, to the heart of gratitude and remembrance. (Artist and photographer Joy Prouty really hit the nail on the head in this post). Thanksgiving is a beautiful day; but I hope to never forget that Thanksgiving is every moment of my every day!
For me, Thanksgiving this year was about connecting with these people whom I’ve never met, without using language or voice. Yet through the process of image taking, I could sense their love, loyalty and cultural pride, and I’m thankful that I was able to be there to take it all in. What life moments have filled your heart with gratitude?