“Ubuntu ngumuntu ngamantu.” I am a person through other people. I am because you are. Without each other’s existence, there is no other.
- Zulu Proverb
12:09 a.m. — an interesting time to lie awake at City Year Summer Academy. The subway trains outside roll and grumble under Boston’s midnight sky while I stare upwards at a little painted constellation on my dorm room ceiling. Broken shapes of stars and crescents refer to a previous existence in this space and I wonder who that person could be. I also wonder about the thoughts of my fellow Team Leaders who may be just as restless as I am, thinking about the great social change we strive endlessly to achieve.
But this restlessness does not sprout from a place of negativity. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. From the myriad of inspiring individuals who shared their life’s work at Ubuntu Night this evening came a huge groundswell that resonated in everyone. Music, dance, and story were intertwined in a night of introspection; of deep appreciation for those who were transparent about their past hardships; of inclusive community and a genuine enjoyment of the presence of each other’s humanity. The restlessness I feel is rooted in inspiration to get out into the world and serve our high-need communities. After the night’s festivities were finished, everyone paired up for an Ubuntu Walk, a time to share and establish a beautiful, beloved community through our life stories. Through these walks, we embrace our sense of self in other people, and others’ selves in us.
It doesn’t always appear that we idealists are knee-deep in ambitious action, with faded white shirts a half size too big, or Timberland boots scuffed and scattered with paint. Yet to dismiss us for being frumpy — as a fellow Team Leader from City Year Boston put it this afternoon — is a mistake. We wear our work on our sleeves, and these small details are milestones in our service and represent days upon days of hard work. Great minds think alike and work together, and this idealistic mindset is one that bears no mind in looking like 80’s park rangers strolling around Northeastern University’s campus. For we are united together in one common goal: serving the greater good and, ultimately, changing the world.
Spirit. Discipline. Purpose. Pride. These are the four governing ideals that each and every City Year member seeks to embody in their service. As I sat and took in our opening ceremony earlier that day, I noticed some things. Over a thousand (yes, 1,000) people crowded into Matthews Arena to become inspired; to delve into a deeper level of thinking. As we all listened to Charlie Rose speak to the inequalities of our world and the urgency of effective social justice, I had a particular vision. My vision revealed thousands more senior corps members, young aspiring individuals filling every single seat of that arena, whooping and hollering in the most positive camaraderie. I envisioned teams of idealists representing all major cities in the United States and multiple international sites. I envisioned Charlie Rose speaking with a sense of admiration because we had already reached one million students; he challenged us to reach two million, three million. Call it wishful thinking, but to not try is to automatically fail. As the opening ceremony wrapped up, an enormous roar filled the arena, a roar of committed adults sacrificing their time to invest in the spirit of our youth. The best part of my vision is it can happen. And it will, if we are all in this together. As we complete our service years, we lay a foundation for future corps members to stand upon. In order for our service to be fully realized, it takes everyone to give back to their country, to invest in education, and to believe in the humanity that exists in everyone.
- Adam Conger, City Year Sacramento Team Leader