“Ubuntu: “I am because we are”

We are better together

In June 2009, in the swearing-in remarks as US Department of state Special Representative for Global Partnerships, Global Partnership Initiative, Office of the Secretary of State, Elizabeth Frawley Bagley discussed ubuntu in the context of American foreign policy, stating: “In understanding the responsibilities that come with our interconnectedness, we realize that we must rely on each other to lift our World from where it is now to where we want it to be in our lifetime, while casting aside our worn out preconceptions, and our outdated modes of statecraft.” I am saddened that 12 years later we still struggle to come together to help one another.

I see this competitive spirit in schools, businesses and other social settings. Instead of building each other up we tend to try to out do the other person. I am reminded of the saying that “he with the most toys wins”. History has show where we have literally crushed other people to get what or where we want to be.

I read a story on Facebook which may or may not be true but it is worth telling just the same. This is what it said: An anthropologist showed a game to the children of an African tribe. He placed a basket of delicious fruits near a tree trunk and told them: “The first child to reach the tree will get the basket.” When he gave them the start signal, he was surprised that they were walking together, holding hands until they reached the tree and shared the fruit! When he asked them why they did that when every one of them could get the basket only for himself. They answered with astonishment: Ubuntu – “That is, how can one of us be happy while the rest are miserable?” Ubuntu in their civilization means: I am because we are. That tribe knows the secret of happiness.

In my graduate class I was told that as you climb the ladder of success reach down and pull others along with you. Imagine a world where instead of walking over top of people to get where we want to be that we hold our hands arm in arm. In my month of Intentionality I hope that I intentionally reach down and help others along the way.

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