Tag: zulu

6/7/10 “Ubuntu”

Good day, team,

An article I read recently in The New York Times inspired me and is the subject of this week’s challenge.

In the small, faraway village of Maqongqo, South Africa, a school principal named Rita Mkhize is proud to talk about the concept of “ubuntu,” which in Zulu means “We are what we are because of other people.” I was immediately intrigued and read on.

“The whole theory is an ideal. Different areas of a person’s life are affected by how they understand these concepts and how they understand sharing and giving opportunities,” said Thobile Biyela, an interpreter at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, not far from Maqongqo.

The article continued, “Beyond being a catchy slogan or good-luck charm, ubuntu is a road map for how life should be lived. In South Africa, this concept underlies the foundations of its Constitutional Court. The court characterizes it as synonymous with humanness; social justice; fairness; the rehabilitation of offenders; the maintenance of law and order; and recognizing a person’s status as a human being entitled to unconditional respect, dignity and value.”

As many of you may know, the World Cup soccer championship is being held in South Africa this year. For the South Africans, the significance of this event is largely economic. It will bring many needed jobs and opportunities to an area that has large numbers of unemployed. Even for people merely selling flags by the roadside, it’s a way to make money. But the World Cup is also an opportunity for the rest of the world to see ubuntu in action, and when it comes to sports, the concept is alive and well.

Ubuntu seems especially appropriate for team sports because it describes an approach to life characterized by selflessness, sharing, unity and respect. In fact, Coach Doc Rivers of the Boston Celtics basketball team introduced it two seasons ago to his team, and if you look at their record over the past two years, it makes you wonder if ubuntu hasn’t inspired the team to be the champions they have become.

In the small village of Maqongqo, the primary school has very successful school teams. “They win all the time,” proclaims the principal.

Even the U.S. soccer team has embraced this concept. We will have an opportunity to see if it increases their chances in the upcoming competition.

Your challenge this week is to test ubuntu with those around you. Perhaps you describe the concept at a team meeting, and when the going gets tough, you use it as a rallying cry to remind people to come together and serve each other. Maybe you talk about it with your family, reminding each other that we are what we are largely because of the people we are closest to.

See if ubuntu inspires you to remember that a person’s status as a human being entitles him or her to unconditional respect, dignity and value. As hard as it may be to apply ubuntu to our daily experiences with others, it’s good to know that in Maqongqo, the concept is alive and well.

As Biyela went on to say, “As a 21st century African woman, I’m feeling the crunch. I’m feeling like people are losing the spirit of ubuntu a little bit. That’s why we try to come here to Maqongqo and show that it still exists, it still lives on. People are still willing to share, still willing to give.”

Have a good week!


Kathleen Doyle-White
Pathfinders Coaching
(503) 296-9249

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