I have given it a few days to sink in. Nelson Mandela died. I cried.
Almost daily we hear of the passing of personalities or influential people. In these days of social media the news spreads fast. When I hear a familiar name, I get sad. Sometimes I am shocked. I don’t always cry. This time I did.
As a child of 70s and 80s, I remember first hearing about South Africa when the protests and boycotts involving the cricket and rugby. I was in primary school and did not really understand what the fuss was all about. All I knew was that the news was full of pictures of what I thought were armies of police at sports events.
I remember in 1990 when Nelson Mandela was released from prison. Only the year before the Berlin Wall had been torn down. These were miraculous things that I thought I would never see in my lifetime. They changed the way we think. They changed the world. They gave me hope in my fellow human beings.
That is the big picture. Look more closely and it is the changes, at a personal level, that are even more inspiring. History (if it is not rewritten) documents that Nelson Mandela went to prison, convicted for treason. In his fight to stop anti-apartheid, he felt he had to use armed resistance.
During his time in prison, this man learnt to forgive. He learned peace. We have heard the stories of him teaching both fellow prisoners and his prison guards, to read. We have witnessed his work for a united South Africa. For me, the most inspiring part of his life was the fact that this man chose peace over violence, love over hate. As a result he made so much more of a profound statement. He did not only bring a country and its divided peoples together, he allowed this message to reach the entire world.
When we remember Nelson Mandela, let us not gloss over his past. Let it not be expunged from history. Let it serve as an example of how any person can change their attitude towards their fellow humans. Let him be our example. Let us attempt the same metamorphosis. Then the world would be a better place.