Ubuntu – the essence of being human…I am because we are!…Amy Rees Anderson

“One day, a western anthropologist went to Africa to study the social behavior of an indigenous tribe. He proposed a game to the children and they willingly agreed to be part of it. He put a basket filled with fruits underneath a tree and told the children that whoever would reach the basket first would win the whole basket and could eat the fruits all by him- or herself.

He lined them all up and raised his hand to give the start signal. Ready. Set. Go!

The children took each other’s hands and started running together. They all reached the basket at the same time. Then they sat down in a big circle and enjoyed the fruits together, laughing and smiling all the time.

The anthropologist could not believe what he saw and he asked them why they had waited for each other as one could have taken the whole basket all for him- or herself.

The children shook their heads and replied, “Ubuntu, how can one of us be happy if all the others are sad?”

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Desmond Tutu explains Ubuntu with these words:

“One of the sayings in our country is Ubuntu – the essence of being human. Ubuntu speaks particularly about the fact that you can’t exist as a human being in isolation. It speaks about our interconnectedness. You can’t be human all by yourself, and when you have this quality – Ubuntu- you are known for your generosity. We think of ourselves far too frequently as just individuals, separated from one another, whereas you are connected and what you do affects the whole World.

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.”

What a great lesson to be learned from this story! And what a better world it would be if there were more people with Ubuntu. Tremendous things come about in life when we are willing to watch out for the benefit of the entire group rather than focusing on the benefit to ourselves. I can tell you that from my own experience that my own success has always been greatest when I focus on helping others around me to succeed. None of us exist in isolation in this world. We are all interconnected and we all have so much value we can bring to one another’s lives if we are willing to. Those children in Africa understood something that we as adults could all take a lesson from.

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May we all live our lives with a spirit of Ubuntu!

~Amy

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