Q. Tell us where you come from and about the Dagara tribe.
A. I’m from Burkina Faso, a small, landlocked country north of Ghana. The Dagara still live in houses made of mud; we don’t have running water or electricity. Children are cared for by the entire community, and the role of elders is very important. We believe everyone brings something unique to this world. Every day of life is important, and it should be based on spirit and community.
Q. Ideally, holidays are a time when families and communities come together. But in our society, they can feel too materialistic. How can we deepen our experience?
A. Holidays are an important ritual for everyone. Going into a holiday season, there are a lot of preparations we must do, individually and collectively. Here is a time to show gratitude for people who are a part of our lives—even though they do things we don’t like. How can we renew our connection in a healthy way? How do we forgive each other and truly, really forgive? Because many times we may say, “I forgive you.” But we’re still brewing with revenge. We’re waiting for the person to say one thing wrong, so we can jump on them and give them back exactly what they gave us.
Q. Why can spending time with family feel so challenging?
A. Our family often wants something else out of us, other than who we are. A lot of times, we don’t accept each other; we really tolerate each other. And I believe that no being should ever be tolerated. We tolerate people when we don’t know what else to do.
Q. What are some specific things we can say to help heal our closest relationships?
A. Just be humble. You can recognize with your child, for instance, “I have been very hard on you this year, and I really want you to know that I do love you. And all the hardship between us was not because you were doing something wrong but because of the craziness in my life.” Those kinds of simple things can bring a whole lot of magic into our lives.
Q. Why can this kind of communication be so hard?
A. We are more prone to say what we don’t like about someone than what we really appreciate about them. If there were a balance, it would make it possible to be able to hold someone’s hand and to look in their eyes sincerely and say, “These are the things I appreciate about you, and thank you for making them present in my life.”
Q. Any thoughts on giving gifts to loved ones?
A. For me, giving a gift is something I really sit with. I ask myself, Is this from my heart? If I realize I’m giving something because I feel obligated, I don’t do it. Instead, I might offer to give the person a massage because I know that’s from my heart, and I love doing that.