One of my favorite points in Chapter 1 is the reference we make to Ubuntu “the essence of being human” (Archbishop Desmond Tutu). In 1999, Tutu explained “a person with Ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, based from 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.” Perhaps many of us bury our heads in the sand and like to believe that nobody is tortured or oppressed in the places we live. It might be easier to acknowledge that these things do happen if we change the words a little…surely we would all admit that others are put down, mocked, judged, distrusted, and disrespected in the places we live. Unfortunately even in the places where we work.
For me, this particular point in Chapter 1 is always a gentle reminder (as is the way of Ubuntu) that I can recommit myself to a better way of thinking. That I can remember how each of us as a human being is interconnected with every other human being. That the way I treat other people affects not just that person but can have a ripple across all the people s/he will interact with and will, on a much larger scale, impact the whole world. I want to make a choice each day to interact with people in a way that will build them up instead of tearing them down.
Tutu further explained Ubuntu in 2008, “Ubuntu speaks particularly about the fact that you can’t exist as a human being in isolation. It speaks about our interconnectedness. You can’t be human all by yourself, and when you have this quality – Ubuntu – you are known for your generosity. We think of ourselves far too frequently as just individuals, separated from one another, whereas you are connected and what you do affects the whole World. When you do well, it spreads out; it is for the whole of humanity.”
At Mandt, we make a significant effort to help staff understand that treating others with dignity and respect is a vital component to building healthy relationships. In my workshops I also try to help new instructors recognize how difficult that might be for some of the staff they will be training. Some of the people we are offering services to do not treat us with dignity and respect. We sometimes have the attitude that we will only treat people with dignity and respect if they are treating us in a similar fashion. This can obviously be a vicious cycle (our clientele treats us with disrespect so we treat them with disrespect and in turn they continue to treat us with disrespect) and one that is our duty to break – as difficult as that may be. We are the paid professionals in this relationship. It is ultimately our responsibility. It is far too simple to fall into the “us vs. them” mentality and focus on the difference we have with the people we are providing services to – whatever the disease, disability, or diagnosis that has brought this person to our care. Instead, let us redirect our focus onto the similarities. The shared interests and the commonalities – the essence of our humanity.
Maybe today can be the start?
Nikki Wince – Mandt System Faculty