05 December 2013

"Nelson Mandela has finished his journey..."

How fortunate to have been alive at the same time as Nelson Mandela. I think about other heroes who accomplished remarkable things and most of them were before my time or I was so small I have no memory. 

But with Mr. Mandela, we were all alive to bear witness to his changing the world. I remember when he was released from prison in 1990, and how he forgave his guards at Robben Island. That was the first time I truly understood the power of forgiveness and how you bestow it for yourself as much as for those you are forgiving; the act frees you of your anger and resentment. There’s a saying that I can’t fully recall, but it’s about how forgiveness is finally fully realizing that you can’t change the past and you no longer try to.

Of course, he went on to abolish apartheid with F.W. de Klerk and to become president of South Africa, a feat that was as remarkable as it had been impossible only a few years before. 

I’ve read a number of comments from dignitaries today, but for some reason, this simple sentence from South African a capella group Ladysmith Black Mambazo struck me as the truest: “The Father of our nation, Nelson Mandela, has finished his journey...” 

He’d been in poor health for years and was probably ready to go awhile ago, but we weren’t ready for him to. But now his journey is complete and he leaves his legacy for all to study and learn from for decades to come. And we were here to watch it in real time. What an incredible gift.

A few of my favorite Mandela quotes: 

“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love.” 

“Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity, it is an act of justice.”

 “For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”

“It always seems impossible until it is done.”

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