Ubuntu; I Am Because We Are

A missionary from First Presbyterian Church in San Anselmo, California came back from an African trip and spoke to his congregation about the sense of community he found to be incredibly inspiring. 


The story he told was one that demonstrated the wisdom of cooperation and togetherness.  It is one discovered by many and carried back to Europe and The United States by authors, photographers, and filmmakers.  In a country torn by strife and a population devastated by AIDS, this hopeful tale has the ability to transform our tendency to be ruggedly independent into a new and hopeful interdependence.  It was passed on to me by my cousin, Dave Jones, who is an elder of that San Anselmo church.

An English archeologist was studying and working with a tribe in Africa.  He was interested in measuring the competitive spirit of children and devised a plan.  The man gathered fruit and goodies, tied them in a netting, hanging them on a low branch of a tree.  He told the children to form behind a line drawn in the dirt some 100 yards from the treasures.  They were instructed to run as fast as they could to the tree, and the one who arrived first could take down the prize and have it as a reward.  The command to start was given and the children joined hands, ran together, surrounded the tree, released the goodies, sat in a circle and shared its’ contents.  The anthropologist asked why, with so much starvation and such a lack of such fruit and candy in the community, one child wouldn’t rush to the netting and keep it rather for himself.  The oldest answered saying; ‘Ubuntu’ or I Am Because We Are.

Today I will bless my community with a renewed spirit of interdependence.  I will give for all that I receive.

Robert Kenneth Jones is an innovator in the treatment of addiction and childhood abuse. In a career spanning over four decades, his work helping people recover from childhood abuse and addiction has earned him the respect of his peers. His blog, An Elephant for Breakfast, testifies to the power of the human spirit to overcome the worst of life’s difficulties. We encourage you to visit and share this rich source of healing, inspiration and meditation.

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Bob Jones’ blog An Elephant for Breakfast