When you move to Uganda you get a whole new set of neighbors. When I moved to Gulu in 2006, my neighborhood was suddenly full of people displaced by war, wives who had lost husbands, children who had lost parents, most surviving various states of poverty.
At the same time I was exploring ethics and had become fascinated by the elegant, powerful formulation recorded in the Gospels: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
This simple phrase seems to carry in it a vast sea of ethical instruction. The same ethic appears in religions and cultures throughout the world. This principle, it seems, is foundational.
But what does it mean? Practically speaking, what am I supposed to do?
That’s what I have been asking myself since I got all those new neighbors. Though I can’t offer you the complete answer to that question, there is one conclusion that I’m pretty sure of:
Helping people achieve their dreams is one of the best ways to love them. Maybe the best way.
Love your neighbor, it says, as yourself. And how do I love myself? I get up every morning and try to make my dreams come true. I try to build the world that I want to live in.
There is perhaps nothing more definitive of human beings than our capacity to dream, and to bring dreams to life. It’s the central human magic.
So loving my neighbor as myself means supporting her in making her dreams come true, at least in part, and as I think more about it, maybe in large part.
That’s our commitment to the women of NUPECA, our partner co-op here in Uganda. Our fundamental goal in partnering with them isn’t to overcome poverty or put food on the table or put kids in school, though those are great steps along the way.
Our fundamental goal is to help our Ugandan partners achieve their dreams. After all, we’re neighbors now.