Ubuntu in Spring

By: Hilary Scheppers

The month is April. Spring break is over. Students and corps members prepare for the long and final stretch ahead. We have two more months of service left and I can feel the light coming through in the early mornings (or is that spring daylight savings?) With Spring’s arrival there is new light especially shed on our initial goals that we set in place from the fall.

I look back at the goals I made in September and think about how ambitious they were. I look at the initiatives I actually completed and see things that they were far greater and farther reaching than I could have imagined. I am so impressed. I am not impressed with myself, but with the resilience of a team and a mission to persistently serve.

In April, we are honoring “ubuntu,” a City Year value adopted from a South African tribe meaning “my humanity is tied to yours.” I see this in my team. I see this in my corps. And I see this ubuntu in the learning we did over our school’s spring break.

Our corps did a focused study on social justice issues through experiential learning while our kids were out of school. My group focused on food justice, exploring the local food scene, the urban gardens, farm-to-cafeteria schools, and local food banks. It was through food that I saw my humanity tied to others.

A women in the community whose son was killed from violence created a Peace Memorial garden in his name. She told us of the need to bring people back to their roots in a positive, healing way. She said the people did not know where their food came from, the people did not know how to garden, the people forgot where they came from and how to care for life.

In gardens, we share. The earth is generous. We dine as a family. Breaking bread is a form of peace. Almost every tradition speaks a word of gratitude before they eat of the food given to them. If our community rediscovered the connection they have to healthy, sustainable food, they would become strong advocates for education and empowerment in their community.

So as service comes to a close, my final goal is non-academic. It is not personal or measurable. My goal is to show students that we are all connected to each other through invisible webs of interdependence. The struggles of few affect the many. I can show them this through my words and actions, by putting on my red jacket and doing what I can do. I will show students deep respect, because in the end, that is what truly matters.

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