A calm breeze swells and swirls around my exposed legs. Traveling north from Canada, it crashes against the weathered, concrete walls of Studio One and washes over me as I enjoy this cool spring night from my balcony. It is 9:21PM and, having just finished a home-cooked meal of sauteed banana peppers and roasted garlic marinara spaghetti, this is the first time I have left my apartment today. The day was beautiful- celebrated by my Ultimate Frisbee team in Ann Arbor, Cinco de Mayo festivities in Southwest, a rummage sale in New Center and the Art Fair in Palmer Park- but I chose not to participate. I spent the last thirty-six hours lulling in-and-out of sleep and isolation. Self-prescribing a steady dose of bed, couch, bathroom; repeat. I put myself in a place of infinity, lost a sense of time and let the outside world become foreign.
Some things in life are so enigmatically impossible to process that all you can do is experience them- the last week I spent at the Youthful Cities Global Summit in Toronto one such example.
Toronto will come to me in waves, ripples and concentric circles. It is more than a single event; it is many. Instances of Facebook comments, Skype calls and nights spent on couches across the world- the experience will cascade down my rolling hill of existence until one day it gracefully unfurls in a grassy meadow, complete. A few years ago I fell in love with the South African concept of Ubuntu and never in my life has it resonated so deeply.
In the words of Archbishop Desmond Tutu-
“A person with Ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, based from a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed.”
Last week was a baptism for me. I’ve carried significant insecurities and discontent with me for so long that it has threatened my humanity; my Ubuntu. Out to prove to some unidentifiable deity that I have worth, I’ve carried a chip on my shoulder that has disregarded others and damaged relationships. Ubuntu is community; Ubuntu is purpose. I found both last week.
This Thursday, Challenge Detroit Year 4 Finalists will gather from all over the country [and possibly world] for the opportunity to interview for a fellow position with a Challenge Detroit host company for next year. Each applicant will be stressed, even overwhelmed, but unbeknownst to most of them they will become a part of something greater than themselves regardless of whether or not they get hired.
In early February, someone I had never met posted a link to the Youthful Cities Global Summit application saying “I think someone from Detroit should go to this” in a Facebook group dedicated to all of the past years’ Challenge Detroit finalists, The Challenge Detroit Network. I applied. A link that took that woman seconds to share, changed me for the rest of my life. That is Ubuntu.