A friend of mine selects a word at the beginning of each year to help guide her through the coming twelve months. She gives her selection much more thought than I’m guessing most of us do to any resolutions we might make.
Her word for 2021 was renewal. It captured her hope to renew friendships, activities, mind, body, and spirit.
As I was reflecting on what word I might select for the coming year, I learned of the death of Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu. My mind jumped to thinking about what word I would connect with this great hero of faith.
I’ve heard several commentators suggest the word ubuntu.
It represents an African concept in which one’s sense of self is shaped by one’s relationships with other people. It’s a way of living that begins with the premise that “I am” only because “we are.”
Tutu drew on the concept of ubuntu when he led South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which helped the country reckon with its history of apartheid.
He explained: “A person with ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, for he or she has a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished when others are tortured or oppressed, or treated as if they were less than who they are.”
While Tutu’s life was a shining example of ubuntu, I settled on another word. That word is joy.
More than three decades ago while I was a reporter in Washington, D.C., I covered a speech that Tutu delivered. I can’t remember exactly what he said that evening. What I do remember is his joy.
I was seated near the front of the sanctuary where Tutu would be speaking. As he entered the chancel, he and I made eye contact. I will never forget the smile that spread across his face and the twinkle that filled his eyes. I’m not sure I’ve ever experienced a person who radiated greater joy.
That memory, along with my friend’s example, has inspired me to select a word for 2022. I haven’t made my final selection, but I’m narrowing down my list. I hope to find the word that will guide me and capture how I hope other people will see me.
I invite you to join me. What will be your word for the year to come?
Whatever individual words we select, may 2022 be filled with those things that mean the most to us.