There was a wonderful South African musician at the TEDx conference we attended recently. He talked about “Ubuntu” (pronounced “oo-boon-too”) and then he played a song about it; about how it is hard to translate from the Swahili, that it means much more than kindness. It encompasses reconciliation, forgiveness, and compassion. And when I think about it, it is something akin to that indescribable something that makes someone go out of their way for another, to treat a stranger like a family member. Unlike some people who are all about themselves – their needs and desires – a person with the spirit of Ubuntu is connected to humanity, writ large.
On this day when South Africa buries one its greatest leaders, Nelson Mandela who is the personification of Ubuntu, it seems only right to pause and think (or write) about it:
Lately, Bob has had to take my 4-wheel drive CRV to the hospital because of the snow and “wintry mix” weather we’re experiencing. Feeling a bit forlorn encased in ice on our hill, I was lucky to catch the tail-end of a Morning Joe interview with the daughter of our Secretary of State, Dr Vanessa Kerry. Here is a woman from MA who also practices her life with the Ubuntu spirit.
A practicing physician and new mother, Dr Kerry managed to create a bold new system with the Peace Corps to make physician/provider training in developing countries sustainable. She started Seed Global Health – “..an innovative public-private partnership to place nurses, physicians and other health professionals as adjunct faculty in medical or nursing schools overseas in March 2012.” http://seedglobalhealth.org
Instead of joining a 2 week mission to treat patients in Uganda for instance in your specialty, something she called a “band-aid” in the scheme of things, young doctors can pledge a year of their time training another doctor, who will go on to train 10 more doctors, etc. And the caveat is that her non-profit will help defray the student loans most physicians have accumulated. Absolutely an ingenious idea! Health care in 57 countries suffers from a crucial shortage of approximately 2.4 million doctors , nurses and midwives.
We have a governmental agency in this country that is similar to Seed called the National Health Service Corps (NHSC). Instead of training other doctors, these practitioners provide direct care to over 9 million underserved patients in America. I had heard of young physicians working in disadvantaged areas in order to have their debt relieved – mostly primary care practitioners in Native American territories. But their website lists rural clinics in MA, MN and HI as well! https://nhsc.hrsa.gov/index.html
May the spirit of Ubuntu bless us all this holiday season. Let’s not quibble over greetings like Merry Christmas or Happy Hanukkah or Happy Holidays, or worry about who’s stealing what celebration from whom. We are all God’s children. And even if you don’t believe in God, just smile and say “Same to You!” My card this year says “Merry Everything” and I mean it.
And thank you Shutterfly, you rule!