February 11, 2012

ubuntu ~ 'be worthy of the trust of thy neighbor'


this is Monica Ampong.  she is my neighbor.  this photo shows where she lives.  she is the mother of 2 of the jr. youth in our group, 'Gems of Justice'.  the wooden stand next to her is where she sells sachets of water, eggs that her hens lay, and a few other basic items that Ghanaians use for cooking on a daily basis, like hot peppers, tomatoes, gari and spices.  recently, however, she has only been selling water.  her eldest daughter explained that it's because they needed to use the money for school and food to eat so there was no extra money to buy more goods to sell.

directly behind Monica, off to the left, is the area where the family spends most of their time.  this is my favorite area to sit.  it's where the grains are ground, where the food is prepared, where they eat, where the washing and bathing is done, and where all of the joy, reading and relaxation is done.  there is a tree that provides shade -- they move around small benches and stools to accommodate themselves the best they can.

the low wall in that area is used to store water.  it is always very low or empty except when the heavy rains fall.  beyond this area is where the cassava grows and where they have private areas for 'going to the bathroom'.  the open area that is cleared is used for playing soccer and making pottery.

Monica is the first friend here in Ghana with whom i share the spirit of ubuntu.  when i met her, i felt magnetically attracted to her.  i was instantly drawn to her. she is one of the sweetest, humblest souls i have ever met.  she smiles instantly and constantly.  she has worked very hard her entire life and shows no desire for anything beyond what God has bountifully provided.  she demonstrates contentment and radiant acquiescence.  she has 6 children, all of whom are lovely souls with good manners and good natures.  her youngest daughter, magdalene, is the girl i wrote a post about recently; she is a sincere, searching soul with an open heart that is full of receptivity..

i am one to hug and show a lot of affection but she is not.  now when she sees me walking along the dirt road which leads to her compound, she jumps up and comes to greet me with a hug. :)  she speaks little english so i rely on her eldest daughter to translate a lot of what we say to each other.  our most recent time together was spent sharing a YouTube video about keyhole gardening.  she and her family already grow cassava but they have difficulty growing any vegetables because the chickens eat the seeds they plant.  they haven't devised a way to raise a garden bed or secure it with chicken wire.  Monica's children and the rest of the jr. youth are excited to begin a sustainable garden on her land.  i, too, am excited to be part of something that will contribute to economic and ecological development in this neighborhood..
Monica with her husband, Francis

trust has been the most significant thing that we've developed.  it is an invisible force that leads to incalculable results.  a few examples are: i don't have to wonder if she's giving me less vegetables than for what i am paying.  she lets her children come to my home many days a week, even late into the night, with unquestioned support and acceptance.  i make suggestions (like the keyhole gardening) or demonstrate acts of generosity and she knows my intentions are pure..  trust is the vital link and gateway for well-being and security in this world -- and it cannot result except through unity -- which, to me, translates into the way of 'ubuntu': a very practical, interdependent, interconnected way of living with each other in a community.  i am grateful for knowing Monica and being able to live in an African neighborhood, sharing the spirit of 'ubuntu' with my African sister:
Tutu further explained Ubuntu in 2008:[4]
One of the sayings in our country is Ubuntu – the essence of being human. Ubuntu speaks particularly about the fact that you can't exist as a human being in isolation. It speaks about our interconnectedness. You can't be human all by yourself, and when you have this quality – Ubuntu – you are known for your generosity. We think of ourselves far too frequently as just individuals, separated from one another, whereas you are connected and what you do affects the whole World. When you do well, it spreads out; it is for the whole of humanity.
Nelson Mandela explained Ubuntu as follows:[5]
A traveller through a country would stop at a village and he didn't have to ask for food or for water. Once he stops, the people give him food, entertain him. That is one aspect of Ubuntu, but it will have various aspects. Ubuntu does not mean that people should not enrich themselves. The question therefore is: Are you going to do so in order to enable the community around you to be able to improve?

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