We were winding down our discussion when Roberta hit me with it:
It’s a Zulu word that translates to “humanity.” In Zulu culture, it means that “strangers” do not exist. The Golden Rule, discussed in last week’s blog and as applied by Zulus, requires us to welcome everyone into our homes. This means clothing, feeding, and sheltering those who arrive at our doorsteps.
What I like about the Zulu worldview is that, if no one is a stranger, then practising The Golden Rule becomes easy. We’re united, One, not divided. United, no difference exists between how I treat myself and how I treat others because we are one body, one community, with the simple name of Humanity.
Ubuntu in my life
My dad escaped communism during an uprising in 1956. He left his parents and sisters in the dead of night at the age of 19 for a world unknown. Somehow he landed in England with a lot of other Hungarian refugees, not knowing a word of English let alone how to navigate a non-communist world.
He worked as a café barista and eventually studied mechanical engineering in London. While mastering English, he learned – and grew to love – the culture, attending classical music concerts regularly, making friends, and wearing an ascot (what could be more quintessentially British?).
While he eventually moved to Canada, that welcoming experience in London shaped him profoundly. Until the end of his life, he still said “cahhhn’t” instead of “can’t” and declared roundabouts the best traffic tool. He couldn’t believe we didn’t build more roundabouts in Canada as they were “much more efficient than stop signs.”
I appreciate the British application of Ubuntu in my dad’s life and, indeed, my own. By admitting my dad and all those Hungarian refugees in 1956, the UK gave them a chance for a better life. I thank the British saying for saying “yes” when my dad sought refuge.
Ubuntu in today’s world
Today we see a new group seeking refuge. Ukrainian families have been torn apart by the war there, with women, children, and the elderly fleeing Ukraine in droves seeking safety in neighbouring countries and elsewhere, including with the large Ukrainian diaspora in Canada. Ukrainians on the ground here in Canada are working feverishly to prepare for their arrival.
I remind myself what we all want: safety, belonging, and purpose. We want to climb Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs: Physiological – Safety – Belonging – Esteem – Self-Actualization.
Most people flee out of fear and/or desperation. They’re not coming to “take” from others. They’re coming because they want to “give” their best which, for whatever reason, they can’t in their current situation.
Ubuntu compels us to welcome all newcomers as friends. May we welcome this latest wave of humanity seeking shelter with open arms.
Applying Ubuntu to your life
Ubuntu is greater than how we treat strangers. It’s about how we treat friends. Here we see The Platinum Rule (treat others the way they want to be treated) in action. When we care for the group, we care for ourselves. The group is large, all of humanity in fact, as Gary Zukav writes about in Universal Human. It’s not about one community, religion, or ethnic group. It’s ALL of us.