Throughout my stay I had many Africans apologize to me when I have clumsily tripped over myself or been hurt in some way. I thought it was simply a cultural thing and paid it no mind- I would thank them and be on my way. I finally asked Benedicta the true reason behind why they apologize for something that was not their own doing.
The reason was hardly cultural at all, but rather very humanitarian: “whatever happens to my neighbor can happen to me.” They apologize out of sympathy that another human being or piece of themselves has been hurt.
Benedicta said, “My neighbor is me; if someone is hurt then it will hurt me also.” What good comes of a flourishing individual if it becomes so detached it can no longer feel what its neighbor feels? In western cultures, we abandon our neighbors and take on an individualistic approach; we focus on our own lives and disconnect ourselves from “irrelevant” others. This is a curse and a blessing all at once: we are able to find ourselves relevant and discover our own potential, but too often we forget to see the potential and relevance of others.
Some photos from Chamberlain’s trip: