It feels odd to be writing two posts in a row with a person’s name as the title. Each passed away this week.
Today, most people know that Nelson Mandela died yesterday at the age of ninety-five. What they might not know is how he lived his dignity and showed it towards others. This trait is one of the outstanding qualities he has imparted to the world for those who witnessed his life. Twenty-seven years he spent incarcerated. Twenty-one years he and Winnie, his first wife, never touched but only spoke through a thick glass partition. When Winnie became somewhat of a firebrand, wearing combat attire and boots, they parted ways. Before and after the divorce, Mandela stayed quiet, not uttering a word of criticism about his former partner and spouse. Then, he fell in love again and married at the age of 80.
The most often asked question of Mandela is why or how he came to bear no spite towards those who fought against him, imprisoned him, betrayed his cause, or plotted against him. He has answered thusly:
“Hating clouds the mind. It gets in the way of strategy. Leaders cannot afford hate.”
I was thinking that we can also decide to lay down garments of hate that enfold us, whether it be towards those we feel have done us wrong, or ourselves when we feel we have not done right towards others up to now.
The answer I like the most about why he wasn’t more angry at his captors and about years spent in prison for more than a quarter of a century is this:
“Why aren’t you more angry?”
“If I thought it would do any good, I would be.”
Nelson Mandela was patient, pragmatic and persevering, serving the good of others rather than his ego. He changed the tide of history with dignity and respect. His wisdom prevailed and without him, Africa and the world might be a very different place today.
He has been called the moral center of Africa. I feel his life serves as a moral fable for us all.
Godspeed, Nelson Mandela. And thank you.