I Am Because You Are

Matthew Travers - Senegal


July 10, 2012

When I graduated from high school, I decided to move from California to New York City. There, I served as a mentor with City Year, a non-profit that works in inner-city schools. It was through this organization that I learned of the concept Ubuntu. This African philosophy is based on the belief that everyone is tied to one another in the most fundamental means of existence.  This worldview articulated what I had always known since I was little: I can’t exist all by myself. My humanity is intrinsically dependent on the existence of those around me. I have learned that, in this way, we are all equal and irrevocably interconnected.

In nineteen years, I have found my humanity in the most unexpected places.

I first found it in my twin sister. In a very real way, we existed together- we became best friends and understood each other as we understood ourselves. This early exposure to such a tight-knit friendship influenced the perspective through which I see the world.

Then, when I studied abroad my junior year of high school in Guayaquil, Ecuador, my humanity appeared everywhere. It was in the hands of the humble women selling fruits or woven baskets at the market to support the children slung on their backs. It materialized in the stories and prayers my host grandmother would recite at the kitchen table. It never ceased to amaze me how, even in obscure territories of the Amazon Rainforest or the Andes Mountain Range, my humanity could be reassured with a simple exchange of words or a commonality I shared with the people I met.

Most recently, I found my humanity in an elementary school in the Bronx while serving with City Year. The fourth graders I worked with over the course of ten months unknowingly imparted to me life lessons and invaluable wisdom. Their humanity encouraged me to pursue opportunities that will allow me to support some of my seven billion fellow humans trying to make the most of their own existence.

I am ready to embark on an adventure as a Global Citizen Year Fellow in Senegal.  As I prepare to travel to the place of origin of the Ubuntu philosophy, the constant need to find my humanity in others fuels my excitement. Perhaps the most exciting thought is that of the people who will find their humanity in me.

Matthew Travers