Ubuntu – it is who we are

Differences are not intended to separate, to alienate. We are different precisely in order to realize our need of one another. ~ DESMOND TUTU ~

When I first see them, they are just two men walking down the street in opposite directions on the same sidewalk leading towards and away from the homeless shelter where I used to work.

The moment transcends ‘normal’ in one instant. As the two men pass eachother, one of the men strikes out and shoves the other man off the sidewalk onto the roadway. He falls to the ground and the other man continues to walk away.

The man on the ground jumps up. His hands are balled into fists. For one moment, he takes a belligerent stance, and then it’s gone. He’s standing facing the retreating back of the other man, his shoulders slumped forward, his arms hang loosely by his side.

I am sitting in my car, about to drive down the lane, away from the shelter where I used to work when this scene unfolded in front of me.

I am stunned. Bewildered.

I stop my car. Get out and approach the man who is still standing in the laneway. “Are you okay?” I ask.

He turns towards me. He is in his 50s, maybe 40s but it can be hard to tell sometimes how old someone who has lived the ‘streetlife’ really is, ‘the street’ can make you appear ten to fifteen years older.

“Yeah. I’m fine.” And he shrugs his shoulders and starts to walk towards the shelter.

“Is there anything I can do?” I ask.

He sighs. “No. I just got off work. I don’t wanna make no trouble. I just wanna lay down.”

I leave him, get back in my car and turn around back to the shelter. I follow him into the building. I want to make sure he’s okay.

At the security desk I wait until he’s checked in. “I’m sorry that happened to you,” I say. And I touch his shoulder with one hand.

“Yeah. Thanks.”

Tears form in his eyes. I wonder when someone last spoke to him kindly when he’s been hurt. Offered comfort. A gentle voice.

“Can I give you a hug?” I ask.

He looks at me surprised. “Sure. That would be nice.”

Later, at my meditation class I am deeply relaxed when our guide instructs us to ‘walk into the desert.’

“Walk with no intention,” says our guide. “There’s a figure walking towards you. Welcome them. See who it is.”

It is one of the two men. Not the one who was thrown to the ground. It is the perpetrator.

He is a dark shadow. Dark clothes. Dark hair. Shrouded.

As he walks towards me I want to shake him. Rattle him. Ask him why he did it. Do something to ‘make him see’.

And I realize, he cannot see me. His world is too dark. Too shadowed to see there is light all around. He is beaten down in the darkness.

I stand and hold the light around him. It is all that I can do.

It was a powerful realization. To know that there was nothing I could do to ‘make him see’, or hear or be anyone or anywhere other than that moment right there.

In that realization I knew – he didn’t see the man he shoved. He saw — his past, the pain and anger of the moment, his powerlessness to change the past, his anger at the moment.

It doesn’t make what he did right. It does make my witnessing of what he did more understandable to me.

Sometimes we do things that hurt others. We strike out — with words, with hands and fists, with guns and knives and weapons of mass destruction. We strike out against the injustice, the inhumanity, the cruelty of what has happened in our lives, what others have done to us, what we have done to them. We tell ourselves, we’re not as bad as ‘them’. We would never to that.

Standing in the desert in front of that man, I knew — I was capable of those same actions. His darkness exists in me because I can see it.

The only difference is — he can not yet see there is light within that darkness.

In Africa there is a word — Ubuntu. It means — ‘human-ness’, Humanity to others — “I am what I am because of who we all are”.

I cannot be me unless you are you and you cannot be you if I am not me. We cannot be who we are unless we each become who we truly are without prejudice, discrimination, hatred and war clouding our vision.

That man’s darkness cannot exist without my darkness. And my light cannot exist without his light.

For him to see his light, I must be my darkness and light. Hold true to my being, without being pulled into darkness.

May we all be inspired by the power of our ability to inspire others, to be our most incredible selves, even in the face of darkness.

May we all live the truth of Ubuntu so that each of us can live peacefully in the light of knowing, we are all connected in our humanity.


I have been fighting a cold this week — hence getting up late, no time to write. This post originally appeared on my blog in 2014. I brought it forward because of a post Diana shared on her blog today at Talk to Diana— thank you Diana!

A gift of words makes a difference

I’ve written about Spam before so won’t go on and on, but can I just say — I find it disturbing that people/machines go to such lengths to disguise themselves as ‘valid’ visitors that they make comments like, “This was a good comment you put up there dude… hope it benefits all the ones who land up here.”  and then it is signed, XXXXXX Carpet Cleaning with a link to their website. (I have chosen not to display the company name as I do not want to contribute to a) giving them free advertising and b) to negatively impacting their business by dissing them publicly.)  How do I know for sure it’s SPAM. Well, it could be the fact it’s posted identically on three different blogs all on the same day, at the same time…

Seriously. Why would I trust a company to clean my carpets when they can’t keep themselves from sharing SPAM all over the place?

Bah. Humbug.

Bless them. Forgive me.

Someone asked me the other day why I insist on asking for forgiveness for myself when ‘you didn’t do anything wrong’.

My answer was simple. Because in my thinking, I was uncharitable. I get that XXXXXX Carpet Cleaning is just trying to get new business. And I get that they see nothing wrong with spamming. What I need to be conscious of is what’s happening in my head. How much energy am I dedicating to thinking negatively about them? Or any of the other SPAMMers who appear in my comments section every morning? It is the energy I expend moaning and groaning and thinking uncharitably about them that I forgive myself for.

When I know better I do better.

And I’ve now just spent 250 words complaining!  Time to breathe and focus on immersing myself in the beauty of my day. The simplest and most effective thing to do with SPAM is to simply delete it and move on to wonder and awe.

Last night, the beautiful and lovely Diana Schwenk who blogs at Talk to Diana sent me a link to a YouTube video of Richard Page speaking the words of a poem by Soygal Rinpoche inspired by a poem by Nyoshul Ken Rinpoche set to music written and performed by Richard Page.  (Don’t you just love the connectedness of the creation of this poem!) She thought of me when she first heard it, she wrote and wanted to share it.

Her act of sharing touched my heart — and it is when we connect, heart to heart, that we make a difference of love and joy and harmony in the world. I am grateful for her words and sharing.

I listened to Richard Page speak the words of Rest in Natural Great Peace before going to bed last night. I let the words and sounds slowly sink into my body and mind. I let the lyrical nature of Richard Page’s voice wrap me in notes of peace and harmony, and I slept peacefully. I slept completely. I slept the night away.

What a lovely gift.