Traveling around South Africa in 2008 was the first time I was introduced to the concept of ubuntu (pronounced ‘oo-boon-too’). It is a Xhosa word (which has no English equivalent) and was the founding social structure for the Xhosa people. A rough translation of ubuntu is: a person is a person through other persons, or as I was told in South Africa by our guide, I am who I am because of who we are. What an amazing word! What a revolutionary, counter-cultural idea. Especially in a society that values competition, individuality and the philosophy of I am who I am because I pulled myself up by my bootstraps!
Yet, here is this idea that we are all connected. The actions we take as a community directly affects each person individually and vice versa, who I am and how I live directly impacts us as a community. I talked about this earlier in my article when I challenged you to take a look at some of your daily living habits – do they promote the health and well-being of others? If we think and act with ubuntu in mind we are taking the step to live a life of connectedness. Shedding the selfish skin and replacing it with a robe of compassion and awareness of others and their needs.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu eloquently explains ubuntu further:
“…It is the essence of being human. It speaks of the fact that my humanity is caught up and is inextricable 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 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.”
This is what we are all about at The Authenticity Project, this is what we hope to teach and share with others! The understanding that we are connected to each other because we share in our humanity. We challenge each person to stop in their tracks – those daily steps that have been ingrained - and instead take a full look around. I saw a bumper sticker the other day that said: “If you aren’t outraged, then you’re not paying attention!” As Heidi spoke about earlier this month – what is you “enough moment”? What issue makes you stop in your tracks and say: “Enough!” It’s time for change. It’s time to drop the mask of individuality and instead, embrace the ancient concept of ubuntu.
Look back at Demond Tutu’s words. What he describes is not impossible, but simply requires a change. Not just the acknowledgement that a change needs to occur, but taking the courageous step to turn around and head a new direction. To make my point: if you are driving to New York and find yourself on the interstate headed straight for Los Angeles it is not enough to acknowledge that you are going the wrong way – you must actually turn the car around. What is the next feasible step you can take? Practice a habit of welcoming and hospitality? Taking time in your no-doubt busy schedule to be open and available to others, or a willingness to be vulnerable? To live generously with your time, compassion and ability to help others?
There’s no better time to take the next step then a crisp, autumn Monday in October and we’re right by your side.
Jennifer Anderson is the Content Director for The Authenticity Project, you can contact Jennifer at TheAuthenticityProject@gmail.com