It's Christmas again? My husband and are amazed at how fast this year has gone by but then again we've also packed a lot in, but more importantly we've noticed how much our lives have changed. We spent September in Africa filming a documentary on elephant ivory and rhino horn poaching and I've still got a piece of my heart and one foot firmly planted in Kenya with the remarkable wildlife and people we met. Coming up on this time of family, love, stress, giving, and at times excess, I'm noticing that my perspective has been altered.
I spent a month meeting people who were happier than any people I've ever seen, and they have nothing, from a western point of view. They had no shoes but I found them far richer than I. They have a relationship with life, to nature, to the animal kingdom that we have lost long enough ago that we usually don't miss it in our lives.
We traveled with some of the oldest cultures we have left, who have coexisted with the wildlife in near harmony for a long long time. The people and the elephants I met have what I feel we could use. Both live in tribes and survive, or not, as a whole. They love and value their elders, as their wisdom is needed to thrive. Being nomadic they go to the resources and always find what they need, creating natural sustainability. They also play and love and sing together every day. The people I spent time with laughed at my worries about the future and death, they have a saying, it means, don't worry its God's plan. Personally, I need this.
Today, I was intensely sad about recent events and I forced myself to continue with my long "to do" list at my desk and came to "buy holiday gifts for agents/managers/lawyers." But instead of going to my usual Internet hotspots of transient fattening things, I thought of a place where need and want are different, and instead went to SheldrickWildlifeTrust.org and fostered an orphaned baby elephant for my manger named Quanza.
Quanza was found in a desperate state after witnessing his mother and two sisters killed for their ivory but is now thriving, only because of the selfless love and expertise of the incredible keepers who will become Mommy to this baby for five years. The babies are named after where they are found and I ended up fostering babies for my entire team who came from all the places I went to this summer while filming; LEWA from LEWA, Sabachi from Sarara, and also a now very happy baby I fell in love with in Africa the second I felt his sweet kindness called Kilaguni, who is missing his tail because a hyena chewed it off before he was rescued. I then went to the ElephantTrust.org and donated to the longest running study of elephants in history by Cynthia Moss, a woman I spent time with in her tent in Amboseli, Kenya. I also went to LEWA.org -- who are guarding the very last of the rhinos, up against a mafia crime syndicate, on an NGO budget. And to IFAW.org who I saw hand over the keys to two brand new land rovers for rangers in Amboseli, who had one they were valiantly trying to fix, and donated for another friend who also needs nothing material. I gave to all the wonderful groups I met in Kenya, for someone I love.
And I walked away from the computer with hope and love in my heart, which a new pair of sneakers just wouldn't have done. As much as I love sneakers they just can't restore faith in humanity. But supporting people who've stepped outside of the normal patterns of life just to peddle love, for no monetary personal gain, can. They live faith and it is contagious.
I realized that I actually would rather nurture a connection to all life than have a piece of jewelry or another pair of shoes. I have so much more, and so much less, than so many I met this year and I find myself not wanting more things at this time. I find myself wanting to have something more permanent, and to focus more on the quality of life, not the quantity. I'm afraid I need a bit of what some of the third world hasn't lost yet. I can learn from them.
This is easy for me to say as I've felt it first hand and I now have a vision of what is possible. We cannot save people without also saving the wildlife. They do not exist separately and neither do we. This is something we forget, but I believe our cells, nature and many Africans have not.
To be the best we can be, we cannot just think of our own species, life is not actually segregated. That is just an apparency and habit.
So for me, in this challenging time and also a time of love and family, I will be looking to take my shoes off, put my toes in the dirt and think of and support the amazing people, elephants and rhino of Kenya.