‘Sonder’ is a word of realizing that everyone’s life is just as complex as your own. People are not just there as a backdrop. People are as deeply complex as you. It gives you permission to see people beyond their politic, their clothing, their outward appearance…

Daniel Emuna

Reflections of Life produces powerful short films that uplift the personal stories of ordinary people, with the goal of sharing ideas and inspiring change. We feel blessed to feature video-stories that filmmakers Michael and Justine capture with expertise, and which so beautifully illustrate grateful living principles and themes. In this short film we hear from Daniel Emuna.

Learn more about Reflections of Life (formerly Green Renaissance) through our Grateful Changemaker feature.

Video Transcript

I’ve given my time to my phone, so much time to my phone, just scrolling through, looking at nothing…nothing I can remember. But to give that time to someone who needs to be seen…that’s eternal.

If you’ve allowed yourself to feel exactly what you feel then you’ve gone pretty low. Most people have had opportunities to feel a depth of pain. And I would feel very lonely and feel that kind of pain because people that I really cared about would say painful, hurtful things and almost treat me like I didn’t exist. In those moments, all I really wanted was to be cared for, understood, seen. But in those moments I would feel very lonely. And so I don’t want other people to feel that way.

If you hang out with me throughout a day you would catch me talking to a lot of strangers. And my friends interpret me as someone who is very gregarious and extroverted. But I just talk to people because they exist and I’m recognizing that they exist.

I really value connection with people. And to connect with people, to really connect with people, you’ve got to be straight up, you’ve got to be real. There’s no other way to connect with people than to be true. And to be true means to recognize a lot of things within people that are within you. To be true means to say, ‘I see you for who you are and I’m going to do right by you.’

‘Sonder’ is a word of realizing that everyone’s life is just as complex as your own. People are not just there as a backdrop. People are as deeply complex as you. It gives you permission to see people beyond their politic, their clothing, their outward appearance and realize the way that you care about what you care about, the way that you want to love the people you love, you get hungry, sad, and you have all these moments in between…they’re having every single emotion that you are having. Everything that you have, they have, or they are capable of. And that means you have to see them as yourself. That word is so good because if you really feel it, and you really believe it, then you have to humanize the person next to you. And that’s hard. It’s hard because there’s a lot of things you can receive and get, there’s a lot of things you can walk away with when you don’t humanize people. But the question is, is it worth it?

I feel that every human is seeking…this sounds corny, but I think we’re seeking love. Love is powerful, it’s a powerful thing. We know that innately. And I think sometimes we’re confused as to how to go about accessing love.

Each and every one of us deserves to care for and love each other. We all know that. But the systems around us sometimes just make it very difficult to see that and to give that. Because we believe that when we give it, we lose something. We lose respect, we lose power, we lose resources, when we give love. There are those who are asking to be cared for all the time. And we ignore them all the time. Because we feel like to give our time, we’re losing something more precious than the life that we see in front of us. I don’t feel like I lose anything from giving someone my time or what I have… food, resources, care. I don’t lose a thing. There’s so many coffees that I’ve bought, there’s so many ways in which I’ve just given money. How much more powerful is it to give money to someone who needs it and to be generous? Just being aware of what you have, your privileges, your resources, and knowing that you have a responsibility to show up for those who need you.

I read this essay recently. This person in particular was saying how they’re a paper mache construction of the people who love them. I thought that was beautiful. As you pass through this life, people put their own little piece to help make you. Or plant a little seed within your inner heart that might bloom some other time. You are changed every time.

I do like to think of this heart space, this space of which we can’t see or touch, but exists between each other, as a garden. There’s pathways that you could take that have been trodded before, there’s beautiful things blooming all the time, there’s fruit. But there’s also seasons too, right? The garden is something that we all could tend to and we all could enjoy. We are all tending to this garden while being of the garden. In the same way that the world is something we are of and we also tend to, like literally.

The things of my own heart are things of which actually are of your heart, too.

Imagine this world as a ship on the horizon. And when you anchor a ship you have to do the work of pulling it in. This is a ship full of all the beautiful things we want in this world…kindness, love, compassion. We all want it, but some of us feel…like it’s so far, we don’t think it’s worth it to rope it in. But the more of us help rope it in, the quicker it gets here. And so when people see you doing that work they’re like, let me help him out in the ways in which I know how. It’s not an easy process. There’s work to that, there’s labour to that. You get rope burns, you know, if you think about that analogy. The waves start crashing a little harder when you’re closer to the shore. But I believe we’re going to get there, period. Maybe not in my lifetime. But I’m going to pull it in as much as I can, and so are you. It’s just pulling in that new world.

To support Michael and Justine in their film-making journey, visit Reflections of Life.

Reflections of Life

Reflections of Life

About the author

Justine and Michael are a creative couple living in South Africa.  Their project, Reflections of Life (formerly Green Renaissance), works to spread positive stories that reflect the wonder of the world. With the goal of sharing ideas and inspiring change, they produce gorgeous short films that are posted online and available for anyone, anywhere, to watch and share freely.


Through their films, they explore what it means to be human. They touch on topics that can often be difficult for people to discuss – from loss of a loved one to aging and retirement to friendship to love and courage – universal themes that we all deal with at some stage in our lives.


By sharing these stories, Justine and Michael hope to remind us of one simple truth – that we are all human – that inside our hearts and minds, we are all facing similar challenges.  We have so much to learn from each other, and our connections run so much deeper and stronger than we think. Learn more and support their work at reflectionsof.life.