A Durban Morning: Explaining the Ubuntu Philosophy

“When we seek for connection, we restore the world to wholeness. Our seemingly separate lives become meaningful as we discover how truly necessary we are to each other.”

~ Margaret Wheatley

A Durban Morning: Explaining the Ubuntu Philosophy

By Stephen C. Lundin and Bob Nelson

The sun is low on the horizon on a lush and brilliant South African morning.  The hills in the distance shimmer with a hundred shades of green.  On a dirt footpath paralleling a dusty rural road outside of Durban, two men approach each other from opposite directions.  Their history could be the history of men and women meeting on dusty roads anywhere in the world.  Each man brings a tribal heritage or past that includes at least one violent chapter.  Today, as they near the point of intersection, each is aware of the past difficulties between their tribes, and there is an instant of anxiety.  The moment passes quickly, replaced by something much larger.

As the men pause for a moment of greeting, the harsh history of the conflict between their clans and the more recent and equally harsh shared memories of apartheid become simply background for their wide smiles and heartfelt salutations.

“Sawa bona,” says the first – “I see you.”

“Sikhona,” replies the second – “I am here.” And with this simple exchange they bring each other into existence, for it is their belief that a person is a person only through human connection, through recognition of one another.

In this magic moment, one member of the human race has acknowledged another, and an ancient African philosophy that is stronger than past conflicts and more powerful than the pain of apartheid: the unifying spirit of Ubuntu.

From:  Lundin, S.C. & Nelson, B. (2010).  Ubuntu!: an inspiring story about an african tradition of teamwork and collaboration.  New York: Broadway Books.

Reprinted with permission from the OSU Leadership Center, Ohio State University, Columbus, OH 43210, (614) 292-3114, http://leadershipcenter.osu.edu/

Coaching Call To Action

How will you truly “acknowledge” those you meet this week?  For me – pause, look in their eyes, pause.  My intention is that I see each person and they feel seen.