Our dear friend Michael Cole has often reminded our Top 20 team that there is the truth and there is the whole truth. Reflecting on our last two Wellness Wednesday messages on Connectedness and Mentors, I would like to apply Michael’s principle to understanding who we are as human beings.

·      The Truth: I am a unique human being.

·      The Whole Truth: Ubuntu…I am because we are.

Ubuntu is an African word referring to a universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity. Yes, we are each unique, but an aspect of our uniqueness is that we create each other. Because of our mutual connection, we are unique because of what we have made each other to be.

I mentioned last week that two of my mentors are Jim Smith, my college basketball coach (‘I’ve got your back’), and Fr. Donald LeMay, my first boss (communicate ‘You matter’). In a very real sense, I am no longer the Paul who existed before I met them. It is more true to say that I am Paul + Coach Smith + Fr. Donald. Ubuntu…I am because we now are.

This greater truth has implications for how we live. One meaning of ubuntu is behaving well towards others or acting in ways that benefit the community. A person who behaves in these ways has ubuntu. He or she is a full person. In an effort to maintain this fullness and this connection, our ubuntu will push us toward selfless acts.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu famously described ubuntu as meaning “My humanity is caught up, is inextricably bound up, in what is yours.”

In the 1990s, ubuntu increasingly came to be described in terms of the Nguni proverb translated as “a person is a person through other persons.” This sense of connectedness appealed to South Africans as they turned away from the separation of Apartheid.

In the movie Lion King, Simba, having no sense of ubuntu, wanders off in shame and guilt after the death of his father. Upon meeting his mentor, Rafiki tells him that his father lives in Simba. Empowered by this connection, Simba returns to his homeland where he takes his place in the Circle of Life as the rightful king. Ubuntu activates in Simba his most true self.

Nelson Mandela expressed ubuntu as a way “to address yourself…so that the community around you can improve.” An expression of this occurred when Mandela introduced his jailers of 27 years as honored guests at his inauguration. Mandela not only embodied ubuntu, but taught others to find ubuntu within themselves.

Some things to think about:

·      Where do I see people experiencing ineffectiveness or conflict because they lack a sense of ubuntu?

·      Where do I see the practice of ubuntu and the benefits that flow from it?

·      How can I manifest ubuntu in such a way that it improves my relationships or community?

Let’s make growing in ubuntu a personal goal as we move through these last days of 2020.

Best wishes from our Top 20 ubuntu team…Kevin Brennan, Willow Sweeney, and Tom Cody.

Paul Bernabei
Top 20 Training