Monday, June 14, 2021

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Watchman on the Wall: Ubuntu

An anthropologist proposed a game to the children in an African village. He laid a basket of fruit down at a distance and told the children to run to the basket. Whoever got there first would win the whole basket of fruit. The children joined hands and ran together, reached the basket together and sat down by the basket. When asked why they chose to to do that, they answered, “UBUNTU, how can one of us be happy, if all the other ones are sad?”

One day in my college Spanish Class, my professor told us of customs in various South American cultures like eating guinea pigs and chihuahuas. “Oh how terrible, how stupid,” the students began to remark. My Prof however said to never say a culture is dumb, just say it is different. That made a big impact on me. Through the years as I have traveled around the world, I always come home with some cultural idea that I want to adopt as my own because it makes so much sense or is more practical.

In South Africa, they embrace the idea of Ubuntu: “I am only because you are.” We are all connected through our common humanity. God only made one race, the human race. We have more in common than we have different. We need to see the value of people.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu was an anti-apartheid activist helping with the transition to Democracy in South Africa at the time that Nelson Mandela became the first Black President. He is quoted as saying, If you have Ubuntu, “then you are generous, you are hospitable, you are friendly and caring and compassionate. You share what you have. It is to say, ‘My humanity is caught up in yours. We belong in a bundle of life.’ We say a person is a person through other persons.”

Desmond Tutu’s granddaughter, Mungi Ngomane, has shared this philosophy in her book Everyday UBUNTU.  This philosophy  includes always being polite to your elders. You never call an older person by their first name but by a title. When she would go help serving meals to the homeless, she was expected to come home with at least one person’s story.

We are not to label people such as “Homeless” or “Black” or “Gay” or “White” or “Racist” because it robs them of their humanity. Each person has a story of how they got there. Even when Mungi Ngomane, fought with her siblings, they needed to be respectful of one another. They needed to allow the other to have their own beliefs, their own values, their own ideas. We are to listen and evaluate. We are to try to see the other person’s side of the issues. To resolve our conflicts, we have to listen to each other.

The truth is not with the Democrats; it is not with the Republicans; it is not with the Christians; it is not with the atheists. It is somewhere in the middle. We are all one family. UBUNTU!!

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