I am often asked, “What are some of your most memorable moments from your travels in Africa?” In response, I usually tell a funny bus story, talk about elephants charging at me, or share a clumsy fall in the dark moment. But there is one moment that really brought things into perspective for me. It was during a visit to a rural village outside of town where we were greeted by hundreds of smiling faces. I was completely overjoyed being surrounded by so many children. While we were visiting, a few of the children asked to see my camera, which I had refrained from using up until this point. There was something about just meeting this village and starting a photo shoot that didn’t sit well with me.
But, at the request of the children, I took a few photos. The children and even adults were so excited to see themselves on a digital camera. Then it dawned on me, had they never seen their own face in a camera or mirror before? Did they even know what they looked like? Did they even think about it? As I stood there with a line of eager faces waiting for their picture, everything seemed to hit me at once. I feel confident saying, we westerner’s look at ourselves at least once a day in a mirror. We are very self aware and know exactly we what we look like. We spend hours on hair, makeup, outfits, tanning, and working out for the self-image we want. My question is, would you care so much about your looks if there was no way to see them? Our society is chock-full of hair loss remedies, plastic surgeries, makeup and wrinkle creams, to fulfill our every desire. We are a society of selfie’s and age reversal.
And then I wonder…would we enjoy every moment more because we can’t capture it on film or video? Would we be more present? Sometimes I think we spend so much time trying to capture every moment to savor it later instead of fulling enjoying it in the moment. Passing on memories to your children and great grandchildren, creating memories to last an eternity... it’s a beautiful thing. I just don’t know that we appreciate it. I think about the women in the villages I work in, they have no concept of vanity. They wear the same tattered clothes each day, pull their hair up and get right to work with their daily routine. Their children grow up and there are no baby photos, no timeline of their lives, just memories and stories. It is about day to day survival, there is no looking back or worrying about what happened yesterday. It amazes me that we live on the same planet, wake up every morning seeing the same sun, and go to bed with the same moon at night but our world’s are so different, so very different.