On Community: An Anonymous Saying from a Country School

Wednesday, December 18, 2013 - 6:27am
On Community: An Anonymous Saying from a Country School

A simple phrase quoted at a rural elementary school has us contemplating its meanings.

Post by:
Trent Gilliss (@TrentGilliss),  Executive Editor / Chief Content Officer for On Being
Shortened URL
32 ReflectionsRead/Add Yours

An grandmother and her grandson in Baoding, Hebei — a village in northern China known for its tradition of rural community service.

Credit: Thomas F. Peng License: Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

"I am who we are."


I heard this quoted at my nephews' charming elementary school in Castle Rock, Minnesota yesterday and have been turning the phrase in my mind ever since. Any immediate reflections come to mind as you ponder this saying?

Shortened URL

Trent Gilliss is the driving editorial and creative force behind On Being. He received a Peabody Award in 2007 for his work on "The Ecstatic Faith of Rumi" and garnered two Webby Awards (in 2005, and again in 2008). The Online News Association nominated his journalistic work multiple times in the general excellence and outstanding specialty journalism categories. Trent's reported and produced stories from Turkey to rural Alabama, from Israel and the West Bank to Cambridge, England.

Add Your Reflection

Filtered HTML

  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd><span><div><img><!-->
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Embed content by wrapping a supported URL in [embed] … [/embed].

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

the difference between gemeinschaft and gesellschaft

you wrote exactly my thoughts indeed I am because you are!!

reminds me of "ubuntu"

I recall how we, my fellow classmates and I used to bridle whenever we heard one of our teachers refer to each one of us as WE. She never said "I" but instead she would address us as "We " That was 50 years ago. . It took along time before I understood , what she was saying and why she was saying it. . "I" felt she was being dismissive but now I see she was being inclusive and that her intention was to make us all feel apart of something greater than ourselves. ..

I think about this a lot. I recently (at age 49) began working as a hospital chaplain intern. The work is so rewarding because in critical moments, all of the stuff (age, race, religion, orientation, gender, etc) gets peeled back and you're left with something like "One." We are all heart underneath it all. With the same deep longing to give and take love. It's pretty simple down there underneath the rest.

This speaks to connectedness (may not be a real word), dependence AND accountability that exists between all of us. I love this quote.

As a wildlife biologist I see how dramatically we humans have separated ourselves from other critters and our environment. For me, the quote ' I am who we are' reminds me that the 'we' is more than just people. We are part and parcel of the whole package... the 10,000 things as the Taoists might say.

I am limited by what and who I exclude, but my humanity is limited only by my exclusions. The more able I am to recognize others as my neighbors, the more complex, the more subtle, my humanity becomes.

If I fear, hate or deny my neighbors, then I am constrained by fear and hate and denial. If I welcome and love and accept my neighbors, then my humanity includes the humanity I recognize in them.

I think I love this quote.

Such an eloquent way of phrasing this. Thank you. I too love this quote.

Ubuntu- I am because of you...."we never have it all together, but together we have it all." "I am who we are." These phrases talk about how the performer needs the audience, the teacher needs students, the employer needs the employee, the parent needs the child and ultimately how we need one another to exist. I cannot become who I am without the company of those around me. We influnce one another. How well we care for one another is relected in our setting. If it is done well, our setting is safe, supportive, helpful. When it is done poorly, it becomes hurtful, we shrink away from life, and even the best of us are pulled down. If we think of and act as if caring for one another is the the most paramount, imagine what a great place that would be! Even the one strugfling the most will be lifted up. I think this can be as simple as picking up trash or offering to help someone without prompt and expectation. This is seeing that the way we treat others is ultimately the way we treat ourselves, and to care about ourselves, we must care about others and the setting around us. UBUNTU


Top Blog Posts

With the dulcet tones of the Copenhagen Phil, commuters find a moment of unexpected musical joy in this flash mob scene. You will too.
A worthy week filled with viral videos that will make you rethink your use of language and make you smile, and posts about a writer's prayer journal and a poem from Rumi that will inspire you.
At our darkest hours, when light fails to find a home, a path of buttercups may lead us back. Parker Palmer offers up thoughts and a Willow Harth poem for many of us caught "underground."
Parker Palmer reflects on "sharing our loves and doubts" as way into more generous conversations — all through the lens of a poem by Yehuda Amichai.
When a millennial woman hears about Buddhist teachings on overcoming anger through love, she decides to try out a meditation practice experiment on her own social media feeds.