Giving someone a leg up in the world should come naturally.
Scientists found that babies as young as 18 months, will immediately make an effort to help an adult whose hands are full while trying pick up something off the floor. This willingness to help is seen by many biologists as being a natural instinct. Although survival trumps compassion as a primary driver of human behaviour, it’s kindness that most distinguishes us as human beings.
The African notion of ‘Ubuntu’ – I am because we are – is a philosophy that speaks to our ‘oneness,’ our interconnectedness and dependence on each other. It suggests, my humanity is only possible through your humanity. Archbishop Desmond Tutu popularised ‘Ubuntu Theology’ in the 1990s, as South Africans turned their backs on apartheid and embraced democracy. The concept is still taught in South African schools to this day.
Sadly, it is not a word you hear much anymore.
The truth is that differences cause us to form closed ‘groups’ which, by definition, exclude others. We have an innate preference to help those within ‘our group,’ over those that fall outside. The ‘group’ could be based on any common or distinguishing traits. From the obvious broader ‘groups’ such as race, gender, religion, to differences in income and social status, we tend to prefer those with whom we have an affinity.
But, when ‘my group’ has enough uncommon ground with the ‘other group,’ wars can break out. The anthropologist Lawrence H. Keeley who has traced human aggression in civilization writes in his book “War Before Civilization” that, “Warfare is ultimately not a denial of the human capacity for cooperation, but merely the most destructive expression of it.”
Breaking out of the confines of ‘my group’ to find common ground with the ‘other group,’ is how society advances. The human tendency is to be kind, caring and compassionate. Historical evidence of our species reflects us as being mostly tender and caring towards each other, not violent. It is how our species has managed to survive and thrive.
The concept of Ubuntu should not be a philosophy, it should be a given. Negative elements such as greed, jealousy and selfishness have no place in a world where Ubuntu lives and breathes. Take a look at the ‘groups’ you belong to, possibly without knowing, and see if there is an opportunity for you to assist folks from other ‘groups.’
Opening closed doors for folks that otherwise would never have the chance is a sign of a kind, caring and compassionate person. If you are in the position to open a door for someone that deserves a leg up, be that person.
Whatever you may celebrate
Happy Long Weekend!
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