Pandemic Silver Lining – The Power of Ubuntu

Jamie E. Smith | Apr 15, 2021

Gender on the Ballot recently released She Votes: Women, the Workplace, and Pandemic Politics, a survey of women voters about the issues shaping their lives and opinions one year after the start of the pandemic. We are publishing personal narratives related to the survey topics to offer real-life perspectives along with the data.

Ubuntu is a magical word I learned a few decades ago.  Do a quick Google search and you too will learn that Ubuntu is part of the Zulu phrase “Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu,” which means that a person is a person through other people.  Ubuntu means common humanity – essentially, you and me both.

I have always been fortunate to have a lot of friends. But life got busy, my career developed, I got married, I had three children, one of whom had some health issues, and I battle a lifelong autoimmune disease. Balancing all of that with being a newly minted partner at a firm, I noticed over the years more and more friends became acquaintances and it got harder to connect, to trust, to unwind, and to open up – save with a few very select people.

The Covid-19 pandemic has undeniably been awful in so many ways and we could all likely write lengthy essays on the hard parts, the undoing, the “shesession.” That said, there has been a silver lining for me: the pandemic pushed me to become better connected to friends than I have been in years.

For my mental and physical health, I suddenly needed people more than anything.  I needed friends to hear me scream with rage, cry with fear, laugh so hard I could barely catch my breath, vent, get philosophical, and simply sit in silence praying that somehow it will all be OK. And it turns out – they needed me for the same.

In March of 2020, I quit my executive job to support my family that was undeniably in meltdown. I reached out to people at my most vulnerable, looking for consulting work as a bridge while I navigated a longer-term solution. I moved our entire family to a new house that felt safer and provided more outdoor space for the little kids to freely run around. Through it all I really leaned on my friends for support for the first time in what felt like forever. All because somewhere inside of me, I know that as strong and capable and fierce as I am, to retain any sense of true North in the pandemic swirl of uncertainty, a person is a person through other people.

As vaccines enter our arms, I am sure our busy lives will fall back in line again, but we all know we will never be the same. And we cannot deny that while things seem to be getting back to “normal-ish,” millions of lives have been shattered and each person impacted is going to need the spirit of Ubuntu to see the sunshine again. The only way we will truly rebuild is by continuing to prioritize a whole lot of “you and me both.”

I am glad 2020 forced me, and so many people I care about, to let down our walls, and that together we walked through our fears. Because a person is a person through other people, we cannot deny we are all connected. What a tragedy it would be to let this simple yet remarkable lesson slip away in the rush for a new tomorrow.


Sign Up For Our Newsletter

Sign up for our newsletter to keep track of all things gender and politics.

[gravityform id="2" title="false" description="false"]

Join the Conversation