One of the official languages of South Africa is Zulu (isiZulu in Zulu). It is spoken by about 10 million people. There is a word in Zulu that is used in greetings: “Sawubona”.
It means, “I see you.” Not in the sense of, “I see you standing before me, and I see that you are wearing blue jeans and sweater, and I see that your hair is done up today, and I see that you are wearing your glasses instead of contacts.” Sawubona is much more than that.
At its heart, Sawubona means, “I see you as a person with a history and culture and hopes and dreams and fears. I see you for who you are. I see you and I respect you.”
Sawubona has been described by worker and community leader Orland Bishop as an invitation to participate in each other’s life. Sawubona, he says, means that people give each other what they need to enhance that moment of life.
Every time I stand before a person, a patient or an audience, a gathering of persons, I remind myself with a deep, purposely cleansing breath what I invite you do; KNOW that these are not nameless, faceless people who are are before you. They are individuals with lives that are as rich and complicated as yours. They are people who want to be seen, who want to be understood, who want to be helped, who want to be respected.
As you look, as you see, pause a moment and think, Sawubona. I see you.
If you carry that intention, bring that forth purposely, you will be looked back at with eyes that say, “Yebo sawubona. We see you too.”
AS A CARING CATALYST
I don’t look at you with my eyes
I see you in my HEART
and accept you as you
A R E
not to be
but possibly be
S A W U B O N A