Ubuntu

October 15, 2018

Ubuntu
 
On the hill
Where a breeze most always
Blows,
The difference between
A gentle caress
And a damaging blow
Measured in miles per hour
Where is that line?
 
Tying down all the loose odds and ends
We brace for the unknown.
We’ve been here before ---
Lived experience
Colors our anticipation.
 
The winds will blow
Perhaps turning gentle breezes
Into weapons of destruction.
Waters will rise,
And the detritus of our lives
Will wash out into the streets.
 
That my words may always be kind,
Even when speaking painful truth,
That my actions may prepare the 
Sodden ground
And absorb all the excess of 
Angry words and angry mobs
Coming in the rising tide.
 
Ubuntu,
We are people through other 
People, living only through
Relationship,
Community, bound together
To withstand the onslaught of
Wind and flood.
If one is not well,
We are all not well.
 
Give me words to 
Shelter,
Actions to encourage,
A heart where 
Hope can live
Grace given out like
Drinking water to
All who thirst.
 
Amy Vaughan
September 14, 2018



 
When I wrote this poem last month, I didn’t know what the hurricane season would hold for us.  Now, two devastating storms have left their mark on our lives.  While I had no personal damage or loss from the storm, I have known many, many people who have lost property, homes, businesses, and even loved ones.  The anxiety of waiting for Florence to hit and the suddenness of Michael blowing up in such a short time both taught me lessons in community.  
 
We wait all the time, sometimes together, in darkened rooms lit by candles, sometimes with an “in your face” ride-out-the-storm mentality.  It feels, at times, that we are all alone in our waiting. We wait at the bedside of someone dying, or wait to see what will happen in the political world, or wait for the inevitable storm.  We find ourselves in our beloved church waiting to see what will happen at the special General Conference next February.  For some, this is much like Florence.  We have seen this storm coming for a long time.  We don’t know what the damage will be, but we know that somehow, there will be damage felt by some.  For others, this storm is like Michael, barely on their radar, and they may not notice until it is over and there have been some changes that blow into their own churches, their own communities.
 
I find myself, sometimes, in places in my community, whether it is with clergy or laity, where we don’t all agree.  I am working hard to listen, to hear the voices that may not hold the same view as me. I am getting all the plywood nailed to the windows, and collecting sandbags to stem the flood when it comes. I hear voices of people who seem genuinely afraid. Other voices shouting from outside the stained glass windows. The storm is coming, someone is going to get hurt.  How can we prepare for such a storm?  
 
Perhaps what we must remember is Ubuntu, that word from African philosophy that means “I am because we are.”  Nelson Mandela explained the idea of Ubuntu like this:   A traveler through a country would stop at a village and he didn't have to ask for food or for water. Once he stops, the people give him food and attend him. That is one aspect of Ubuntu, but it will have various aspects. Ubuntu does not mean that people should not enrich themselves. The question therefore is: Are you going to do so in order to enable the community around you to be able to improve?
 
What will be the fruit of our discussions, perhaps our actions, at this special General Conference?  Will what we do improve the community -- that is, the church?  Will we be able to set aside a difference of opinion in order to live into the Great Commission -- to offer Christ, to open the door for transformation, to all who may come?
 
There is a storm coming. In the end, it matters less whether we have seen it coming, or whether it blindsides us with its devastation.  What matters most is how we will rescue each other, how we come together in community over self-interest.  May we not be stockpiling supplies to survive ourselves, but be looking at ways that our actions, our words, can offer the Good News to all who have ears to hear, and eyes to see.  
 
Rev. Amy Vaughan
 
Amy Vaughan is an ordained Deacon in the Western North Carolina Conference who serves as pastor of Marvin United Methodist Church in Lincolnton.  Previously, she served beyond the local church in ministry with UMAR, as the director of an art program for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.   You can find more of her poetry at www.facebook.com/amy.vaughan and http://revamy.org or in her collection of poems published in 2017: 40 Days of Grief and Lament (email pastoramy@marvinmethodist.com for more information).
 
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