This past week, the news around us has been bad. With the invasion of Ukraine by Russian forces,  three officers being charged for not intervening in George Floyd’s death, the continued impacts of the pandemic, and bullying and acts of racism in the school districts around me, I wasn’t sure what to pray for when I went to church on Sunday.  Sitting in the pew with my 6-month old grandson in my lap, I found that what I could pray for is the strength to say, be and do what I believe is right in the world and for humanity. It takes strength not to succumb to hopelessness or resignation about the evil in the world or wonder if my own individual actions will even make a difference.

Then in our team Calm meditation this week, we explored “ubuntu,” the beautiful African philosophy that prioritizes the well-being of a group above an individual. Ubuntu really resonates with me, which isn’t surprising given that one of my five Gallup CliftonStrengths’ themes is Connectedness. “This feeling of Connectedness implies certain responsibilities. If we are all part of a larger picture, then we must not harm others because we will be harming ourselves,” is one-way Gallup describes the Connectedness theme.

So, I am left with, “What can I do to impact these circumstances?” Here is a list of possible actions that I thought might be helpful to others, especially during these difficult times, peak periods at work, when dealing with sickness or family issues, or other stressors in our lives:

  • Take a breath or count to 100 before snapping back an email that irritated me
  • Pause, so I don’t roll my eyes or sigh in response to what I may think is an inane question or comment
  • Manage my tone so my communications are open and inviting
  • Walk away from a fight, even (especially) when I think I’m right
  • Put down my phone or turn away from computer (or the TV) and truly listen when someone is speaking to me
  • Interject when I hear off-color remarks or jokes that demean or discriminate and be willing to say something, even if it’s simply, “Hey, wait a minute, what?”
  • Adopt a no-tolerance policy by giving a client (or partner, employee, vendor) one warning when they are abusive to another team member, and be willing to end the relationship if the behavior repeats
  • Limit what I say yes to, so I can focus on what is really important to me, and do it well and feel good about it
  • Stay connected with my friends, family and colleagues by reaching out when I think of them, scheduling “playdates” or coffee or check in for no reason
  • Practice kindness by smiling at strangers, saying thank you to the cashier or paying for someone’s coffee (which someone else has done twice for me in the last month!)
  • Offer a helping hand by stopping to notice who may need help or an encouraging word and then taking the time to give it
  • Appreciate – and embrace - our differences in thought, background, experiences, and approach
  • Pray for others, sending them light and love and strength
  • Forgive freely (this is a hard one!) and don’t hold grudges; forgiveness doesn’t mean you condone the behavior, but it is the first step of healing and new beginnings

Some of these may feel small and trivial, but because we are all connected, they have massive ripple effects through the people we touch and the people they then touch. And, for me, it is something I can do and have control over, which is important when we sometimes feel so helpless.

““Ubuntu [...] speaks of the very essence of being human. "Hey, so-and-so has ubuntu." Then you are generous, you are hospitable, you are friendly and caring and compassionate. You share what you have. It is to say, "My humanity is caught up, is inextricably bound up, in yours."”

 ~Desmond Tutu, No Future Without Forgiveness

What would you add for us to live in ubuntu? How else can we spread peace, love and kindness and have it ripple out in our world? I would love to learn from you!