Ubuntu is the African concept of the interrelationship between all beings. The word is from the Bantu language group, derivatives of which are commonly spoken in communities throughout sub-Saharan Africa. In essence, ubuntu means that one’s humanity is understood in relationship with that of others. A person with ubuntu cares for others in a profound way, and deeply senses his or her interdependence with them. It is the recognition that one’s well being is connected to that of others, two-legged, four legged and leafy.

The concept is encapsulated by the simple Shona greeting:

Makadii zvenyu? (How are you?)
Tiripo makadiiwo zvenyu. (I’m fine if you are too.)

A person with ubuntu, upon hearing of a tragedy in another part of town, would not find solace in the notion that such an event would never take place in their neighborhood. A community with ubuntu, would experience the misfortune of others in a personal way. Having ubuntu does not mean sacrificing one’s person hood. But it does mean that we can see our well being in the well being of others. To not do so makes it easier to ignore the misfortune of others, or to justify doing them harm.

We live in a world that can make our hearts ache. A fire levels an Indian slum, HIV-AIDS rages out of control in much of Africa, an oil spill lays waste to the Gulf of Mexico, an earthquake and tsunami devastates Japan, and the ramifications of these tragedies are felt around the world.

Every act of generosity and kindness towards friends and strangers, as well as every compassionate action to heal our environment, should be thought of as a Spiritual act. Though challenging, let us try to develop a world view which is ubuntu – centered, rather than self-centered.