This is how the Zulu greet one another. It literally means, “I see you.” And, yes, they were saying it long before the Na’vi of James Cameron’s Avatar were saying it. Last week I offered 3 ways to connect with others. Number two was “Seeing People.” I’d like to dig into that a little deeper with the help of our African friends.
Sawubona isn’t just about seeing you physically; it’s about giving the gift of acknowledgment and recognition to your very existence. The response to Sawubona is Ngikhona, which means, “I am here.” The concept behind these simple words is that before you saw me, I didn’t exist – by seeing me, you bring me into being. It stems from the African worldview of Ubuntu (literally: I am because you are) which maintains that individuals need other people to ultimately be fulfilled.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu described Ubuntu as the essence of being human. He goes on to say that a person with Ubuntu is “open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, for he or she has a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed.”
We cannot lead what we cannot see. How many people do we interact with – or just plain walk by – everyday that we don’t take time to really see? Are we in some small way denying their existence when we rush by them? I don’t know; but I do know how powerful it is when someone deliberately pays attention to me. So be generous with your time and attention today. As the Zulu say, Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu – a person is a person because of people.
Who are you going to take the time to really see today?
photo credit Dr Cullen