People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite. ~ Nelson MandelaTo have walked the earth at the same time as Nelson Mandela feels like an honour. Any words I could add to the millions being written by way of farewell seem inadequate. As I sit here pondering this giant of a man whose determination and integrity led to the end of apartheid in South Africa, I just want to say thank you. We walk taller because of him. He reminded us to stand for what we believe, to speak out against injustice, to pay whatever price integrity demands of us.
His engrossing autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom, is full of the kind of vivid detail a good storyteller knows to include. He begins it with the name his father bestowed on him at birth, Rolihlahla, and writes:
In Xhosa, Rolihlahla literally means ‘pulling the branch of a tree,’ but its colloquial meaning more accurately would be ‘troublemaker.’ I do not believe that names are destiny or that my father somehow divined my future, but in later years, friends and relatives would ascribe to my birth name the many storms I have both caused and weathered.
In his 1994 inaugural speech, the newly elected, and first black, President of South Africa said:
The time for the healing of the wounds has come.
The moment to bridge the chasms that divide us has come.
The time to build is upon us.
And build he did, leaving a legacy my friend Rick Hardman’s describes with simple eloquence:
Somewhere out there in the suburbs of Soweto, already inspired and motivated by this wonderful man, there is a child. Mandela has passed but his lessons remain. May we see him rise again in the actions of others.
With the death of anyone larger than life come close examinations of character and accomplishments. To those pointing out that South Africa has not become a paradise of equality because of Mandela, I offer a hug of reassurance. Your life counts even if you do not climb all the mountains in your path. You are still a unique and worthy person even if your clay feet show beneath the robe you don to hide imperfections.
Nelson Mandela was a very human hero. We are fortunate to have walked the earth as his contemporaries, however humble our paths.
Rest in peace, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela – Madiba. You give us hope.
Thank you to the Soweto Gospel Choir for one of the most beautiful tributes to Mandela.