I’ve spent the morning reflecting on the life of the global leader out of South Africa, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the man whose life and purpose had such a profound impact on me that Jeremiah and I named our company, Ubuntu Life, after his legacy. Growing up as a child of the 80’s, I remember my parents watching the news about apartheid in South Africa and about the various black South African leaders that were fighting for change. However, the life and impact of Tutu did not hit me fully until I had actually lived in Africa for about 5 years. It was Christmas 2005 and my brother Rance and good friend David Simpson were visiting me in Kenya. I will never forget it, they gifted me a South African magazine and in it an in depth story about Archbishop Tutu. I learned for the very first time the meaning of “UBUNTU” and how it was Tutu’s deep faith in Jesus and how that faith combined with the African philosophy of UBUNTU crystalized within his heart his mission to love, to serve and to see a people and a world bound to one another, our shared humanity.
Ordained as an Anglican priest in 1960, Tutu went on to serve as bishop of Lesotho. He became Bishop of Johannesburg in 1985, and was appointed the first black Archbishop of Cape Town the following year. He used his high-profile role to speak out against oppression of black people in his home country, and became a globally recognized leader fighting against inequality through nonviolence and winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984.
Of course, Tutu’s strength and his ability to fight for what he believed in inspired much of my own faith life and mission for what we do in Kenya. However, even more than this strength and ability to fight for his beliefs, what I found most powerful and profoundly enriching was the way Tutu tapped into a deep undercurrent of faith in his personal life and how this deep undercurrent of faith became an endless source of joy. “We are meant to live in joy. This does not mean that life will be easy or painless. It means that we can turn our faces to the wind and accept that this is the storm we must pass through. We cannot succeed by denying what exists. The acceptance of reality is the only place from which change can begin.”
What a great reminder when we reflect on such a life that endured so much personal pain and fought fiercely for the injustices of his fellow black South Africans as well as for the justice of countless others around the world. A powerful reminder to me when I think of my own pain and the struggles that Jeremiah and our Ubuntu team have endured over the years. There have been numerous times when it would have been easier to give up, but instead, like Tutu, we made the choice time and time again to turn our faces to the wind and accept that this is the storm of the moment that we must pass through. I hope that this reflection of Tutu’s life is an encouragement to you as well as our world continues to suffer as we navigate our ways through Covid and various other trials globally. Remembering that we too can discover that deep joy in the midst of fighting through our challenges knowing that someone like Tutu managed to do this quite heroically with what must have seemed like insurmountable obstacles can be a motivator if we will let it.
One of my favorite books about Tutu if you are looking to know more about who he was and how he saw the world is, The Book of Joy, which he co-wrote with His Holiness The Dalai Lama during their time together in Dharamsala, India in 2016. It is an incredible book filled with countless beautiful stories and moments shared by two soul-filled giants. I will leave you with this quote which I think is most appropriate for our current struggle and at the same time encapsulates the deep need we all have for UBUNTU that Tutu knew so well, “What the Dalai Lama and I are offering is a way of handling your worries: thinking about others. You can think about others who are in a similar situation or perhaps even in a worse situation, but who have survived, even thrived. It does help quite a lot to see yourself as part of a greater whole.” UBUNTU!