Ubuntu is "the belief in a universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity." This originated in Southern Africa and has come to be used as a term for a kind of humanist philosophy, ethic, or ideology, also known as Ubuntuism. I have heard it described, as “a person is a person through other persons.” Essentially, we depend on other people in order for us to be fully who we are.
What’s fascinating about this belief is that it often flies in the face of our push to grow up. Particularly as a young boy, the desire is often to “do it on your own.” In fact, asking for help often felt like a sign of weakness. I can remember in my own youth wanting to achieve self-sufficiency at every turn whether it involved cooking my own food, tying my own shoes, getting myself to school, etc.
And there is also a tendency as a parent to encourage this type of behavior. Encouraging this idea that you can’t or shouldn’t depend on others is one way to promote learning, growth and development. It can also take one more to-do off your plate. I can certainly remember feeling a sense of victory when I no longer had to wipe my kids’ butt, dress them each morning, make their lunch or even drive them from point A to B.
But beyond self-sufficiency is this idea that our own humanity is linked to really connecting with people around us. And not just the friendly hello, but truly connecting on a deep level. Beneath the surface, we all have layers and layer of thoughts, opinions, ideas, fears, and aspirations. Many of these can even go unspoken between your closest loved ones and not necessarily out of choice, but because we devote time and attention toward other things.
As I grow up, I covet these deeper connections. The twists and turns of conversation with close relationships or even total strangers – what’s not to love when there is so much to gain. Sure it’s sometimes scary to think that digging into someone’s true feelings or revealing our true selves will make us vulnerable, and may even result in us looking silly. But isn’t the exposure of our real selves the thing that makes us human and more importantly, approachable, understandable, even lovable? At the end of the day, it seems we all just want to feel loved - which only happens with human connection.