Remember the story of the Good Samaritan? Well, for those who don’t know let me share a quick summary:
The parable of the Good Samaritan is told by Jesus in Luke 10:25–37. It is about a Jewish man who was travelling from Jerusalem to Jericho. He was stripped of his clothing, beaten, and left half dead alongside the road. First a priest and then a Levite comes by, but both avoid the man. Finally, a Samaritan saw the man and felt compassion for him. Samaritans and Jews generally despised each other, but the Samaritan helped the injured Jewish man. Jesus was telling the parable in response to the question from a lawyer, “Who is my neighbour?” who Leviticus 19:18 says should be loved. In response, Jesus tells the parable, the conclusion of which is that the neighbour figure in the parable is the man who shows mercy to the injured man—that is, the Samaritan. The greatest lesson from this story is that our neighbour is anyone of any race, creed, or social background who is in need.
As I was reflecting on the Good Samaritan story, I was overwhelmed with fond memories of my childhood growing up in a small township in Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa. I always think that back then, social relations where so much simpler and purer. I don’t know whether it was because I viewed life through the naïve yet pure lenses of a child. But I recall how our neighbours could come home and say “Sanibonani, ninjani? umama ungithumile bethisicela ukunana ushukela” meaning- “Greetings, how are you? Mum has sent me and warmly asked if you could share some sugar with us”.
Our response – we would gladly offer our neighbour the sugar and instances where we lacked something and going to town was too far we knew which neighbours to run too.
What I loved about this experience is that there was no shame in asking for help and receiving help. It was like there is this unwritten law that as neighbours we are dependent on each other. The sugar example is just a small illustration, there are many other greater examples, like how neighbours came to support those who lost their loved ones.
It was a beautiful time to experience that kind of community. Now we live in the big cities where to be honest I don’t even know my neighbours name though we have exchanged greetings a few times. If I lacked something – going to my neighbours for help will probably be the last thing I did – why? Because, we live in the “don’t bother me and I won’t bother you society”
Even years before our continent (Africa) was colonised and we got to hear of the Good Samaritan story, the concept of ‘one hand washing the other’ – Ubuntu has always existed.
I love how author Sindiwe Magona puts it “…human beings are interdependent. It is the indispensable nature of being human. No one is complete or can be completely human without interaction and, to a lesser or greater degree, dependence on another” (Chasing the Tails of My Father’s Cattle; pg 19; 2015)
In the business world, we look at Ubuntu and lessons from the Good Samaritan as just soft issues that don’t affect the bottom line. Well, I beg to differ, whether we choose to admit it or not the core of us is human and history always teaches us to get the basics right before proceeding further.
Even if one is a CEO, as untouchable as that role may seem – but no CEO can be successful without their respective customers, their teams and adherence to the laws of the land they operate in.
So, the enjoy life tip is this: Perhaps what we need is this unwritten ‘neighbourly code’ tattooed in our hearts and minds. This code will ensure that from “Caretaker to Customer” we act in ways that dignify others always.
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