by Jaclyn Roessel
Giving thanks has long been a part of my life. As Navajo people we are taught to rise early in the morning and giving an offering as a way to thank the Holy People for the day ahead of us. What I love about this practice is as a people we continuously live in the present but also look forward – we look ahead for the goodness and the beauty. Our efforts in prayer in the morning are meant to prepare us for the journey.
My gratitude practice has continued to formalize as an effect of my grownupness. After college, I was new to the “real world” and would often get distracted by the daily minutia. As a way to quell any negativity I created a daily alarm on my phone with a note to find one thing every day I was grateful for. Four notebooks and counting later, I have a written record of the many things in my life from the best scoop of ice cream, an insightful phone call with my mom or a dream of my late grandparents. Each entry varied some profound, many were silly and all heartwarming.
Through this journey, I have continued to add new aspects to my practice. For me being grateful is a constant state. Last year I started a new tradition of reframing and reclaiming Thanksgiving by celebrating Friendsgiving a time to celebrate the wonderful friends who make my life rich and me a better person.
I’ve mentioned on this blog before the importance of recognizing how interconnected we are to one another. For me this practice of communicating is expressed in saying Ahé’hee’. Whether it is in Navajo or English or Spanish there is power in sharing a moment where no ego only selflessness exists. I think when we say thank you it is our opportunity to just “be human”.
Nearly a year ago I launched my card company the Naaltsoos Project, the motto “putting Navajo to paper”. It merges both my love of letter writing but also is meant to share the importance of communicating with whatever words we know of our Native languages. My favorite card and really the reason for the others is my Ahé’hee’ or thank you cards. I wanted a personal card which would say and carry the love and power of the word.
I read an article years ago about a corporate woman who noted the value of saying thank you before you get to where you are going. It reminded me instantly of me late Nalí who never waited to say thank you. She would always get little gifts for the people who helped her at work or relatives. She was the most selfless person and I know. If I can be even part of the person she was I’d be particularly grateful. I continue to thank her for the example she set and recognize every time I utter or write Ahé’hee’ I am more like her and that is what I am thankful for today.