I was running on the bike trail along McCormick Avenue where there are multiple sculptures brilliantly displayed along the way. It’s an almost daily route that I take between my house and my gym to make sure I get in my cardio. I had often marveled at the works of artistry, but that day I noticed something that I hadn’t seen before.
As I got closer, I could see that it was a simple wooden sign with two posts and a piece of plywood in between. It was still far enough away that I couldn’t make out what it was there for, but I figured it was for posting announcements and such. As it became clearer, I could make out something spray painted on the plywood. I could feel a visceral reaction of anger well up from within: “Why couldn’t people leave things alone? Why do they feel the need to put graffiti on everything?”
When I finally came up upon it, I could see the single word that was painted there. It wasn’t fancy or calligraphic. It was simple, yet beautiful: Ubuntu. That’s it. Just one word spray painted on a piece of plywood.
My feeling of anger quickly turned to one of peace as I smiled and felt a lightness within me. It didn’t immediately dawn on me that it wasn’t merely that someone had happened to be nice in their graffiti amidst works of art, but that this was a work of art. This was one of the intentionally displayed pieces among towering intricate metal structures. A plain and simple sign with a word that means I am because you are, you are because I am.
This word is a reminder of our interconnectedness. When we are aware that we are all interconnected, then it becomes much more difficult to “other” one another.
In my inward journey, I have reflected much on this truth and continue the self work that is a daily discipline. But there was something that always eluded me: Ubuntu and our interconnectedness also means I can’t other myself.
As we continue in this time of lockdowns and imposed solitude, what might it look like if we were intentional about self reflection? What if we took this time to look at ourselves, our churches, organizations, and institutions and reflect on our purpose in the greater scheme of things? What could happen if we let go of all of the right answers that we have piled up over the years, and with a healthy dose of humility and awareness of our interconnectedness, started a search for the right questions?
I pray that that journey is fruitful for all of us, because after all, I am because you are, you are because I am.