How do I build community? How do I help make my community stronger, more resilient, more viable? How do we improve our ability to take care of each other, and become healthier, a better whole?
In South Africa, there is a concept of Ubuntu.
“I am what I am because of who we all are”
“A person with ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, for he or she has a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed.”
“Ubuntu is a philosophy that considers the success of the group above that of the individual.” Stephen Lundin- Ubuntu!
The word ‘ubuntu’ originates from one of the Bantu dialects of Africa, and is pronounced as uu-Boon-too. It is a traditional African philosophy that offers us an understanding of ourselves in relation with the world. According to Ubuntu, there exists a common bond between us all and it is through this bond, through our interaction with our fellow human beings, that we discover our own human qualities.
“Or as the Zulus would say, “Umuntu Ngumuntu Ngabantu”, which means that a person is a person through other persons. We affirm our humanity when we acknowledge that of others.
“The South African Nobel Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu describes Ubuntu as:
‘It is the essence of being human. It speaks of the fact that my humanity is caught up and is inextricably bound up in yours. I am human because I belong. It speaks about wholeness, it speaks about compassion. A person with Ubuntu is welcoming, hospitable, warm and generous, willing to share. Such people are open and available to others, willing to be vulnerable, affirming of others, do not feel threatened that others are able and good, for they have a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that they belong in a greater whole.
“They know that they are diminished when others are humiliated, diminished when others are oppressed, diminished when others are treated as if they were less than who they are. The quality of Ubuntu gives people resilience, enabling them to survive and emerge still human despite all efforts to dehumanize them.”
Who am I? A citizen, yes. Yet, I am a part of my community. In defining that, I am who I am because I am a part of the community.
My community defines me.
If I want to advance myself, and advance my community, I must, as a part of the community, also advance the community.
Ubuntu is unity, being a part of something bigger than myself. And, that “whole” also defines me.
In my work in the community, when I strengthen others, I strengthen the community and also myself.
When I mentor someone, help them with a school subject, take time to listen to them, work in a community garden with them, talk with them in the line at the grocery store or the post office, or just smile at someone on the street, I am building my community, and I am engaging in and being an aspect of Ubuntu.
And, when I am tearing down my community, not taking care of myself and others, when I am exploiting weakness and divisiveness, then I am working against Ubuntu. My negativity is destructive, of myself, of others, and of my community.
Racism, sexism, bigotry, ignorance, indifference — all work against the spirit of Ubuntu.
Today, I resolve to be a builder and a force for strength, wholeness and health. I strive to live within the spirit of Ubuntu.
–Neal Lemery, November 16, 2016