A Personal Tribute to Nelson Mandela

Today the world grieves the loss of Nelson Mandela.  When I heard of his passing, tears welled up in my eyes.  “Why,” I asked myself,  “do I cry for the loss of a man from another country and continent far removed from my own experience?”

First, it is because the struggle Mandela waged against oppression and for racial, social and economic justice transcends country, culture, political philosophy and religion.  He embodied the human quest for dignity, justice and freedom.   He said, “Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity, it is an act of justice.  Like Slavery and Apartheid, poverty is not natural.  It is man-made, and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings.”

Second, it is because Mandela did not succumb to hatred and violence.  He was imprisoned for 27 years in brutal and inhumane conditions.  Yet, he came out of that experience ready to forgive his oppressors  firmly clinging to the humanity he still saw in them.  He was committed to rebuilding his nation being inclusive of all – oppressors and oppressed alike.   He said, “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion.  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.”

Third,  Mandela was not deterred, controlled or grotesquely distorted by fear.  Fear is the great enemy of love and transformation.  Fear did not dominate his life.  He said, “Courage is not the absence of fear – it is simply inspiring others to move beyond it.”

In the end, Mandela inspired me.   He said something once about leadership with which I identified and took to heart.  He said, “A leader… is like a shepherd (who) stays behind the flock, letting  the most nimble go out ahead, whereupon the others follow, not realizing that all along they are being directed from behind.”

Every once in a great while a person comes along that not only inspires those of immediate context, but breaches all boundaries and inspires the world, calling forth something from deep inside the human heart to ascend to a greater humanity.   Nelson Mandela was that kind of a person.  His country is better because of him.  The world is better because of him.   I am better because of him.

Today, I thank God for Nelson Mandela, the man they called “Madiba” (clan name) and “Tata” (father); father of his nation whose inspiring life emanated far beyond his own nation and impacted the world.


1 thought on “

  1. Steph Daggs

    I am so glad that I’ve found your blog spot! Ever since I met you oh so many years ago, I’ve admired your quiet strength, ready to share it with whomever might need it. I know that while you were at Holy Love, we might not have always agreed on everything, but no matter the differences, there was love in all we did. I have to admit that I’ve been thinking similar of our new/current Pope – he just seems like such a loving, compassionate man! I’ve even been brave enough to share that thought with a couple of folks lately. Why is it that there are so few of these/you kind, gentle souls in our world? Is it that there aren’t very many? Or that our world doesn’t notice, doesn’t value, such individuals? It makes me think that we’re in such a hurry to get to the next “whatever” that we don’t even notice those right here with us, and how very sad is that?! I really enjoy reading your thoughts – they make me slow down and think about so much, and that’s a good thing. Mandela was, indeed, the kind of loving man this world will greatly miss! His courage and undying love for others is unmatched.


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