At some point in everyone’s life, there will be a moment that changes you forever. It could be a single instance that just makes everything click, or it can be a huge experience that alters the way you see life. No matter the moment, big or small, it is a significant time in life which makes you who you are and shapes how you want to live your life.

My moment was during a trip abroad.

After graduating college, I hopped on a plane to volunteer halfway across the world in Cape Town, South Africa. For the next couple of months, I would work alongside a volunteer group educating high school students on HIV awareness and providing testing.

It was a little scary yet still exciting at the same time.

During my time as a volunteer, I lived with a South African host family. This experience was just as significant to me as the volunteering. I helped my “mom” make dinner every night, I watched rugby matches with my “dad” on the weekends, and we hosted a neighborhood braai (BBQ), which was a blast! They were the most welcoming people I have ever met; they treated me like I was their own family by blood, and I am grateful for that.

I didn’t know much about South Africa, prior to this trip.

Throughout my first few weeks, I learned about the history of the apartheid, the great work Nelson Mandela accomplished, and where the country was actively improving currently. As I learned all about this diverse country, a foreign word kept popping up that caught my attention. I heard it from the non-profit I worked with, from my host family, from South African friends I had made, and during tea with Desmon Tutu.

After hearing the word repeatedly and eventually learning it’s meaning, I realized it wasn’t merely just a word, it was a philosophy.

This was my life changing moment.
This word, made everything simply fell into place for me.

Ubuntu (oo-boon-too) (v): I am because we are.

This is a belief of a universal bond that connects us all through our humanity. Or simply put, we are all human beings.

No matter race, gender, sexuality, economic status, religious affiliation, or anything else, we should respect one another as fellow human beings. Yes, we are all different, living our lives with varying circumstances, and our own adversities. But when it comes down to it, we are all ultimately the same—human. I feel this aspect of Ubuntu connects quite well with the Golden Rule often taught among Christian faiths.

Another way Ubuntu is defined, and I feel is the second part of the philosophy, is, “a person is a person through other persons”.

This is an idea that we all belong to a greater good, and so our actions should benefit the whole. In our fast paced individualistic culture today, we think of ourselves far too frequently. We go through life on autopilot with a selfish mindset, only thinking about me.

What can I buy for myself?
What can I do to make more money?
What do I want?

What we don’t acknowledge, is that we are all connected and our actions affect those around us. This doesn’t mean to be completely selfish, or selfless. It’s about finding the balance, your balance.

Your actions should not only lift you up but should lift up others in result, as well. We as humans achieve our potential by sharing what we have to offer with others, being vulnerable, and caring selflessly for those around us.

You cannot be human without other humans.

Ubuntu changed my life. It changed my perspective completely by affecting how I choose to live each and every day with respect and love. Ubuntu sparked my desire to make an impact and live my life helping others live a healthy and fit lifestyle.

I am on my own fitness journey, where I learn every day. While on this continuous journey to better myself, I want to help others do the same. Life is a long and tough journey. A journey where, in order to succeed, we must help one another along the way.

By helping yourself, you can help others.
By helping others, you’re also helping yourself.
It’s a win-win.

Let’s live by Ubuntu. Who’s with me?