Do you value other people’s happiness as much as your own?

Dr. Beverly Nelson (Photo: Michael Amici)A Note From Dr. Beverly Nelson, Director

Someone shared an image with me on Facebook this week. It was an anecdote about an anthropologist who was visiting a Xhosa tribe in Africa. He had an idea: gather the children and have them race towards a fruit basket, which he had placed next to a tree that was at a certain distance. The first child to reach the fruit basket, would win all its contents. The children were very excited to play the game.

When the anthropologist said “go!”, he was surprised to see that all the children took each other’s hands and then ran together, still holding hands, until they reached the much desired prize. They began eating the fruit, enjoying each bite as much as each other’s company. The anthropologist asked them why they had chosen to run this way.

“Ubuntu”, they answered. “How was one of us supposed to be happy, when the rest of us would feel so sad about losing?”. In the Xhosa culture, “ubuntu” means “I am, because we are”.

We live in a culture that worships the individual. While each of us is unique and worth celebrating, we often forget that all of us are part of something bigger, more important. How many times do we stop to consider this?

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