It always seems impossible until it is done

6 Dec

I just heard about Nelson Mandela.  I know I never met him, and he’s just someone I heard about on the news, but I heard about him on the news all my life.  He has been an inspiration ever since I was tiny.  He was an icon in my house growing up, a hero.

Here is something I have always struggled with: apartheid in South Africa only ended when I was twelve.  How do you square such antiquated barbarism with being a child of the modern era? That was 25 years after man walked on the moon!  I have often reminded myself of that fact throughout my adult life, because it brings home to me that we are not as enlightened a world as we often like to believe.  The fact that I saw the end of this anachronistic inequality in my lifetime makes me realise how far humanity has come, and how far we have yet to go.

To me, Mandela forms part of a holy trinity along with Martin Luther King and Gandhi.  Now, none of these men were perfect, but they chose to stand for something so important, so basic, so fundamental as to be missing from nearly every society in the world: equality and respect.  They are the fathers of my motto for life, that people are people.  Mandela’s approach after his release from prison was to seek reconciliation and peace for the future, not retribution and revenge for the past.  It takes a big heart and a wise head to choose forgiveness when bitterness can be such an easy choice.  I look at these men, and the women of the suffragette and feminist movements, and I see people who said no to injustice, no to inequality, and who decided that they would not just let things be and hope for better but that they would risk their own lives to affect the change they believed in.  Those I admire the most did this with argument, demonstration, honesty, courage and integrity.

People like Mandela make me feel that I can be strong enough to stand up against the wrongs I see in this world.

I feel bereft, for a man I never met, and for the people he inspired and who loved him.  I don’t just want to cry because Mandela has died, I want to cry because of the pain he worked so hard to heal in a country riven by hatred.  I want to cry for all the unofficial apartheids that still exist across the world.  I want to cry because of all the small braveries people need to get through the day wherever hatred holds sway.  I want to cry because so many people are still not free.

And when I stop crying, I hope that I have just that bit more strength, and that bit more resolve, to strive harder for the world I want, one where kids born today won’t find out aged 12 that some countries in the world still treat people differently because of their colour, or religion, or gender.  When I stop crying, I hope I have that bit more kindness and forgiveness in my own heart to try to affect that change with love and courage.  Most of all, I hope that now Mandela has finished his long walk, the rest of us continue that journey, to be the kind of people he believed we could be.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: