"I'm what the world considers to be a phenomenally successful man. And I've failed much more than I've succeeded. And each time I fail, I get my people together, and I say, "Where are we going?" And it starts to get better." - Calvin Trager
Thursday, April 29, 2004 I've been reading a lot of Desmond Tutu's writings recently. Because of Hays Rockwell's friendship with him, we were blessed to have him as a semi-regular visitor in our diocese over the past 12 years or so. He is one of those people who has an otherworldly sense about him -- he is truly plugged into the divine and it just shows in everything about him, but most of all in his childlike joy.
All I am coming to believe about our need for each other ... a need that crosses every kind of boundary we can set up between each other ... is the truth that he and others before him (Christ, Gandhi, King) have discovered in far more profound ways.
I got an email from James today. He's mapping out my time in Ghana and has a basic itinerary for me. I've got plane tickets and visa and proof of vaccination and all the stuff I'm going to need and even someone to pick me up at the airport in Accra. It's exciting, but as I looked at the itinerary that has me traveling all over the country not once but twice (once with Robin when she comes), all I could think about was the people I am going to meet whom I haven't met yet but whose lives will touch mine just as mine will touch theirs. I think about what they are going to teach me about Christ. What they are going to teach me about God as revealed in their lives. And what I, if I can let go and let God flow through me, that I can bring them.
I'm already feeling like I have brothers and sisters in Ghana. James, certainly, since we have shared meals and conversations together, but also the people he has told me about and now these people I can only imagine, people that in less than six weeks I will be sharing meals and conversations and prayers with.
And even in the thinking about it, the truth hits home a little further. It's not the building of the friendship, the sharing of meals and conversations, the time spent together that makes us brothers and sisters. All that stuff is wonderful and it strengthens the bonds and helps us live into being brothers and sisters ... but God made us brothers and sisters from the beginning. I am going to meet new friends but old family. And just as part of me comes from my dad and mom and my brother, there is a way that my humanity is not complete without them -- whether I've met them or not, whether I know they exist or not. And somehow, I delve deeper into my humanity and all its potential when I strengthen those relationships.
Desmond Tutu uses the word ubuntu for this. Roughly translated, it means "humanity" but his usage of it comes from a Xhosa proverb (Tutu's tribe) "ubuntu ungamntu ngabanye abantu" or "each individual's humanity is ideally expressed in relationship with others" or "a person depends on other people to be a person."
What works in the micro is true in the macro. One of the joys of the years I have spent in our campus community is discovering how we are something much greater than the sum of our parts. That somehow, together, we become human, made in God's image, in deeper more profound ways that we can by ourselves. If this is true, if this is our experience as a small community ... how powerful and profound a truth will it be when we live it out globally. Or even set aside globally for now. How powerful and profound a truth will it be when we fully live it out on campus ... when we care for the maintenance workers and people who work at Bear's Den and the construction workers and the unpopular and lonely and everyone else as if they were our brothers and sisters because they are.
Steve Scharre's favorite phrase is "every person has a story." I remind myself of it as often as I can, because it reminds me how valuable each person and their story is. What's really true ... and what is so amazingly cool ... is that every person does have a story that is uniquely theirs -- and that story is my story, too.
| Mike at 4/29/2004 10:45:00 PM
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"Christ's example is being
demeaned by the church if they ignore the new leprosy,
which is AIDS. The church is the sleeping giant here.
If it wakes up to what's really going on in the rest
of the world, it has a real role to play. If it doesn't,
it will be irrelevant."