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Ubuntu, An Act Of Kindness

Ubuntu – a Nguni Bantu term originating in Southern Africa – roughly translates to ‘human kindness’ and is often taken to mean ‘humanity to others’ according to Wikipedia. In South Africa the term has been used as a kind of humanist philosophy known as Ubuntuism or Hunhuism. Showing kindness is a privilege yet performing an act of kindness requires practice. Practicing being kind should occur as regular as taking vitamin pills or daily exercise.  

“A person is a person through other people” is perhaps one of the most telling quotes I know. It is not who you are but what you do every day that defines you as a person. When you see someone needing help – do you think, I don’t have time? Or do you try to assist? Do you belong to those that make the extra effort to collect old pots, cups, clothes and other things you no longer need to give to poor families? No time? Of course you have time! It is just a matter of priorities. It doesn’t take more of your time than is used when watching TV or on Facebook for one evening. 

Must being kind be posted on social media platforms for it to count as important enough? Do you need others to acknowledge your kindness in order for it to be so? Can we not all just be kind without expecting anything back? Remember Lizzy that we wrote about in one of our previous blogs http://goo.gl/W9KsWw? She seems to be on track on something that many of us fail to discover. We may go through an entire lifetime without realizing that happiness grows through kindness. A smile, a hug, walking a elderly across the road, helping the disabled person over an obstacle, making a call to someone who needs to talk, donating those clothes to a charity – it does not take much to be kind – every day.

“I am; because of you” forms the core of what we know as Ubuntu in South Africa. As a child I was taught that my greatest source to happiness is not material possessions but what I can do for others. Can we assume that the happiest people and nations in the world also are the kindest ones? Or can one only achieve top rating on happy indexes by being selfish? Living happily means for many material wealth and personal dreams materializing. The Happy Planet Index multiplies Experienced Well-Being with Life Expectancy, divided on Ecological Footprint. Not surprisingly it is not the richest countries in the world that are the happiest ones, this shows us that well-being is about so much more than just material and financial possessions. 

Sustainable wellbeing depends in part on sustainable kindness. For now, happy does not mean kind and happiness does not mean kindness. The essence of happiness to many appears realized through economic wellbeing, self-realization, self-esteem and similar. Realization of the ‘self’ requires a lot of energy. Do we have time to be kind in all this or does it not pay off in personal gain? Ubuntu does not mean that one should not focus on self-realization – rather it questions whether we do so in order to improve the community around us. In an increasingly brutalized world Ubuntu is needed. In attribution to Nelson Mandela we can do better in embracing Ubuntu and its idea of connection, community and the mutual caring of all. 

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