By: Carly Earp
At the beginning of our service year, the City Year Denver Corps was given the opportunity to attend a Colorado Rapids soccer game. Before the game started, we walked under the lights to the middle of the field holding a large banner that formed a circle. As I stood there holding on to my section of the banner, I smiled and looked around at the seventy other corps members whom I barely knew, but to whom I already felt connected. Even though I didn’t know each member very well, I knew that we all shared a belief in the power of young people and that we were all committed to spending a year of our life in service. As the year progressed, these individuals became my community, my friends, and my second family. They helped me understand the power of “Ubuntu.”
Ubuntu is one of City Year’s core values. It means, “I am a person through other people; my humanity is tied to yours.” Ubuntu is a term borrowed from the Zulu tribe of South Africa. It means that as humans, we are all interconnected, sharing similar beliefs and understandings. Ubuntu reminds us that we deepen our own humanity when we recognize and honor the humanity of others. Ubuntu suggests that there is no “us” and “them.” There is only “us.” The community of individuals that I have been able to work with this year has allowed me to experience the power of Ubuntu, which has strengthened my service experience as a whole.
In the last nine months, the relationships I have made with my teammates, students, and the entire corps has deepened my understanding of Ubuntu. These relationships have challenged me to step into other people’s shoes and try to empathize with perspectives different from my own. I have come to love and appreciate the diversity of beliefs and individuals that surround me everyday. Each individual in our corps brings something different to the table. For this, I am truly grateful.
As I reflect on the past year, and our experience on the soccer field, I am reminded of the importance of Ubuntu. It has been an integral part of our service. At times, our humanity is all that we have to support one another. In the wake of the Boston Marathon tragedy the value of Ubuntu deeply resonated with our corps. Ubuntu reminded us that in difficult times, we must come together and support one another through our humanity. Throughout this past week I was truly reminded of this sense of community as I saw our nation come together and support one another during this tragic event. In an email sent from City Year Co-Founder and CEO Michael Brown to the corps this weekend, he reflected on this. He wrote, “As our beloved city of Boston continues to rally, may those hurt and grieving gain strength every day, and may all of us continue, in the words of Robert F. Kennedy, ‘to send forth tiny ripples of hope’ through service, kindness and civic acts of unity and resolve.” Humanity is the part of our lives that allows us to empower one another and as a result, empower ourselves.