Apparently the term for a personal greeting among the South African Zulu people is the term “Sawubona.” It roughly transliterates to “hello, how you doing?”
But a strict translation would be, “I see you.” That meaning goes far beyond the physical act of our eyes recognizing each other. It literally means that I see your value, your worth, and your significance as a fellow human being. I am stopping the flow of my life to recognize you and what’s going on in yours.
In essence, they are saying to each other, “I see you…really see you!”
That kind of penetrating “look” between human beings suggests a level of care and concern that is commonly referred to in the scriptures. In fact, I think that is what Paul had in mind when he declared in Philippians 1:7 that “I have you in my heart…”
I wonder how our everyday encounters with folks at work, our neighborhoods and our churches would be if greeted each other with a warm “Sawubona. Hey friend, I see you, I really see you.”
There are several implications. First, we would have to slow the very pace of life down a notch or two. A quick “Hi” wouldn’t do. We would have to take a second and concentrate on them, their needs, their situation, and their concerns.
Secondly, it would switch our focus from our issues to theirs. You know how it is when you are introduced to someone new. Unless you really concentrate, you forget their name because you are too busy thinking about how you look and sound to them.
Well, greeting each other with a sincere “I see you, really see you” would require a change in focus. What I am wearing or doing would pale in comparison to their situation.
And lastly, this kind of greeting suggests that we genuinely care about their response. It no longer is a mindless exchange or meaningless conversation. It is intentional. “Because I have you in my heart, I care. So how are you, really?”
So let’s try it this week. Let’s all lift up our heads, focus our eyes and say with heartfelt meaning: “Hello, how are you? I am asking because I genuinely care. I see you, really see you, and it matters.”