Sawubona

During this COVID-19 pandemic, the physical health of people has been, necessarily, the most serious concern, particularly seniors and those who are immune compromised, who are the most vulnerable. Protecting the well-being of frontline workers is also top of mind. And efforts to reduce the transmission of the virus would likely complete the trifecta of physical health concern priorities.

This is not a competition, but make no mistake that the rise in depression, anxiety, loneliness and other mental health issues as a result of the pandemic is also a very real concern for the vast majority of people on the planet. School communities are not immune.

In addition to a host of actions schools can take on behalf of kids, parents, faculty and staff, one overwhelming feature stands out to me most: fostering a community of care. Knowing that people care about us is fundamental to our well-being. And, personal resilience during these times is strengthened if we know that others care about us.

I am reminded of one of the services led by our chaplain, Father Don, when he focussed on personal greetings between people. Those of us in North America often ask, in passing, “How are you doing?” While maintaining our pace, the response generated would likely be, “Good. You?” Again, while in full stride, the conclusion to the exchange would be, “Good, thanks.” It’s nice. Polite. We do it all the time. I would favour that fleeting exchange over a lack of acknowledgement anytime.

That said, after returning from sabbatical with a school in South Africa (Michaelhouse) about 10 years ago, Father Don spoke of a common greeting made by the Zulu people: “Sawubona.”

Translated, Sawubona means, “I see you. You are important to me. And, I value you.” The response to such a greeting might be “Shiboka”; translated: “I exist for you.”

Now, I am not familiar with whether the Zulu people generally pass in the same rapid fashion we so often do in North America, but I do like the Zulu greeting. And, I cannot think of a better time to remind myself and our school community of this simple, yet more meaningful, exchange. My unofficial translation of this communication with another person is, “YOU are important. You deserve dignity and respect. And, we need one another. We live for one another and the success of our community relies upon us both. Together. Always.”

Going forward, we need to emphasize that regular and authentic connection with one another is more valued and necessary than ever before. The sense of community at TCS is one of our strongest and most distinguishable features. We need to reach out more to one another. Perhaps, parents, you could write a note to a member of staff who has had an impact on your child’s life. Perhaps, all of us on staff could drop a brief email to a parent reinforcing some recently observed positive action of their child. And, we constantly need to speak to our children in a manner that values them as young people filled with potential.

There are endless possibilities to remind others that we do not take them for granted. And, that they are valued and important.

Let’s all do a better job of that.

Sawubona!

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