I stumbled across an African philosophy several years ago that has become a part of my family’s everyday life. We were just stepping foot onto the long and twisted Ethiopian adoption road, and while the rest of the world was embracing the more lyrical African philosophy Hakuna Matata, I was teaching my kids to embrace Ubuntu.
It means I am not ME without WE and is in reference to a wonderful quality certain people have in life in their actions toward their fellow human beings. If you walk with ubuntu you are embracing the essence of what it is to be human. I so loved the word and its meaning that I created a wall decal in 12″ font that adorns our entryway so every person who walks into our family home understands who we are through our family’s adopted philosophy. We are who we are because of the people who walk through our door.
There are two parts to the ubuntu concept. The first is that a child is born friendly, hospitable, generous, gentle, caring, and compassionate. As a parent WE should encourage our child to use these strengths on behalf of others. To lift up the weak. To reach out to the poor. To tend to the ill. WE should teach our child to never take advantage of anyone and to apply the Golden Rule daily. If they walk this walk the second part of ubuntu comes naturally. The child shares their worth with the world and humanity is celebrated.
Those with ubuntu are welcoming. They are approachable. Those with ubuntu are kind. Most importantly, those with ubuntu are not threatened by the goodness of others because they see the bigger picture, the greater whole of collective kindness.
ME and WE. As human beings we need each other. We would cease to exist as a civilization if this were not true. The person with ubuntu accepts with humility that they would not be the person they are without those who surround them.
They also recognize and accept that those who seek to cause harm to others through words or actions are victims of an out of control WE. On a world-wide scale that would be political ideology, economic systems, or political strife. On a playground scale it is a child with overaggressive parents who models their bully behavior. Or a child whose life was rocked because of an economic downturn that has made day-to-day living a struggle. Or a child in a peer group clique who fears individuality and is assigned to be part of a caste system among the play ground bark chips. Or a child lost in an orphanage system because of circumstances his WE could not control. Sometimes in anger or despair it is easy to forget those who are aggressive are a result of the negative WE that surrounds them. Good or bad, they are who they are because of the WE in their lives.
Ubuntu: I am not ME without WE.
Every child deserves positive Ubuntu in their lives. They must be surrounded by adults who can advocate for them, lift them up when they have fallen, hold their hand to guide them, and wrap their arms around them to love them. To give them a voice. To give them dignity. All of this is crucial for a vulnerable child or quite simply, their spirit will cease to exist.
There is a bill that has been presented to both the United States House and Senate that aligns with the spirit of a positive Ubuntu.
Children in Families First (CHIFF) is about taking the theory of American foreign policy in regards to the welfare of children globally which emphasizes preserving or creating safe, permanent families for children through family preservation, family reunification, and family creation from domestic, kinship, or intercountry adoption, and making that theory a reality.
CHIFF legislation calls for the redirection of a small portion of the $2 billion the United States currently spends on children living abroad toward ensuring that all children grow up in a family. It also calls for programs funded with US tax dollars to focus on reducing the number of children living without families (on the streets, in orphanages, in refugee camps etc.) and increasing the ability of other governments to better protect their own children.
When a child comes into care the process has historically been to place the child in an orphanage or care facility and, as the months into years pass, take a lineal approach to finding a permanent solution for the child. Instead of that lineal chain of events that could take years while the child sits and waits in an orphanage CHIFF is seeking to take that lineal chain apart by taking those links and placing them side by side, making them concurrent with the other links so time away from family, whether it be the family of origin or through adoption is significantly shorter for the vulnerable child.
CHIFF is not all about adoption agencies and orphanages. It’s not about placing 150 million orphans in American homes. It is about wrapping our minds around the concept that on a global scale life in a family is truly the best option, that every child’s WE is important. It is about providing resources for a family in crisis so the child can remain in their family of birth. It is about the efforts to reunite a child with his family of origin. And finally, if all other options fall short it is about creating families through adoption both domestically and internationally.
CHIFF is about being the WE to the ME of the child without a voice.
It is positive Ubuntu.
If you want to read more about CHIFF or become involved with this legislation you can go to their website http://childreninfamiliesfirst.org/ or ‘like’ CHIFF on Facebook.