Ubuntu, a tool for social change.

To belong to a community and to live your life in communion with others is the first step of a successful call for social change. We live in a world where people are members of a community but they have nothing in common with the community except the fact that they share the same geographical location. This is solely because they exclude themselves from the day-to-day challenges of the community in question.

 By excluding themselves I mean that they do not participate in activities of the community that are aimed at improving the lives of the members of the community like imbizos, ward meetings about safety, dialogues between local government and residents, etc.

 According to the Oxford dictionary, the word “community” means “a group of people who have something in common i.e stay in the same area.”  And the word “communion” means “the sharing and exchanging of intimate thoughts and feelings, especially on a mental or spiritual level/shared participation in mental or spiritual experience.”

 Therefore it is important for Activators to not only belong to a certain community, but firstly to live in communion with the community so that he/she can be psychologically and spiritually connected with his/her community for the driving of social change.

 There’s an English proverb that says, “no man is an island.”  This demonstrates that you have to share common problems with those you live with and strive to find common solutions collectively. In Tswana, we usually say “metse go sha e e mabapi” this means that if my house catches a fire, it is the responsibility of my neighbours to help me extinguish the fire.  If not so the same fire is going to spread to the nearby houses which belong to them.

In South Africa, we have what we call “Ubuntu,” a Zulu word meaning humanity. Usually in Zulu this means “umuntu, ngumuntu, ngabantu” which basically means that you are nothing without other people.

The main purpose of Ubuntu is to ensure that we live our lives in communion with other people.  As an Activator the main question becomes, “How can I use Ubuntu as a tool for social change?”

Easy, firstly strive to be in communion with your community, by this I’m not saying you should demand to be accepted by your community, but rather I am saying accept your community first, and then they will accept you too.  Once you’ve entered in communion with your community, you then start being the change you want to see.  The next question can be “how do I become the change I want to see?”  Well you can be the change you want to see by being the moral agent of change.

By being the moral agent of change I mean that you have to walk the talk and talk the walk.  Saint Francis of Assisi once said, “If you want to do great things, start by doing small things.”  By this I mean you have to touch the lives of the people in your community by performing little acts of kindness depending on the social change you want to see.

Community building depends on the way you conduct yourself in your community and character formation depends on how your community conducts themselves.  This means that who you are defines the community you come from, and the way your community conducts itself defines who you are. In other words your action influences/contributes to the kind of community you want to see and the actions of your community influences the kind of a person you are.

This means that if we can contribute positively to the lives of those who are in community with us by teaching them how to practise Ubuntu through practising it first ourselves, they too will be inspired to carry on doing good to others and by so doing they will be spreading the spirit of Ubuntu.

In closing I’d like to say, start by doing what’s necessary, then do what is possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible – St Francis of Assisi.

Photo credit: nicework.co.za

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