Every once and a while in this world we, as human beings, have the opportunity of witnessing the extraordinary. People who demonstrate through their lives the most beautiful aspects of humanity.
Nelson Mandela was one of these people. An incredible man who inspired, encouraged, challenged, and showed the world what love in action can do.
His passing feels like a light has gone out in the world and the loss has been felt the world over. Here in my quiet little corner of the internet, I would like to add my tribute to Mandela and what his astonishing life taught this girl from Scotland.
“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.” – Nelson Mandela
I remember watching the television in February 1990 and seeing film from South Africa of a man being freed from prison. Being only 7 years old at the time, my young mind could not even begin to contemplate quite how long this man had been imprisoned. Even now at aged 30, I can’t fathom what 28 years imprisonment must feel like. Yet, there in front of me, on the television, stood this man….surrounded by cheering crowds, waving and smiling the biggest and gentlest smile without a hint of anger in his eyes. Mandela taught me the transformative power of forgiveness through his graceful presence in those early encounters via the television set.
Mandela taught me about courage. He never wavered in his devotion to democracy, equality and learning and was prepared to die for what he believed was right and just. Facing the death penalty his words to the court at the end of his famous ‘Speech from the Dock’ on 20 April 1964 became immortalized:
“I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.” – Nelson Mandela
Mandela taught me the power of words. As a ‘collector of quotes’ I find so many of the most inspiring words I have noted down of the years have come from the voice of Nelson Mandela. The poetry of his words gave light and shade to what seemed to be the most stark topics. He spoke of ideals, just and fair societies, the opportunities we have within this life, and the beauty of this human world.
“What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.” — Nelson Mandela
Mandela taught me love in action. This incredible man demonstrated love through his forgiveness for his incarceration, his unwavering dedication to righting the wrongs of this world, renouncing violence in his work towards the end of apartheid, and his generous soul – founding the Nelson Mandela Foundation, the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund and 46664 – the HIV initiative named after his prison number.
Mandela taught us all what it truly means to be human.
I, along with millions around the world, give thanks for the joy of having witnessed and lived in the world during the time of Mandela. His legacy remains and we can honour him by following his footsteps.