Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela passed away yesterday. The news is  all about the details of his illness, decline and death.

I prefer to think about his life.

Nearly 20 years ago, I read his autobiography: The Long Walk to Freedom

It changed me, but not in the way you would think.

I had picked up the book because I idolized Mandela. I had studied him, and heard so much about him. I was eager to learn more about this amazing man, this hero on a pedestal, this person who was changing the world.

His autobiography gave me much more than I bargained for.

It was nothing what I expected that it would be. He talked about his imprisonment, but also about time he was allowed to spend away from the jail, and with his family. He talked about his shortcomings and downfalls, and mistakes he had made as a man.

What? My hero admitted he wasn’t perfect?  That prison (although it was prison, and much of it included hard labor) wasn’t the vision I was playing in my mind? It shocked me. It surprised me. And then it made me think.

The picture the media portrays isn’t necessarily the whole story. Hearing this (well, reading it in print, directly from the source) changed the way I viewed things. It made me a bit more of a skeptic, and it taught me to look deeper, on my own, for the whole story.

It also  made me realize that one of my idols was just a man.

Before you get all upset and angry about that, hear me out. Reading about his being human like the rest of us, witnessing his humility, impressed me even more. If he was just a “normal” man, with the same challenges (maybe more) and the same temptations as the rest of us, with the same resources (or less) than the rest of us, and he accomplished ALL THESE THINGS, what are the rest of us capable of?

That is what transformed me.

There is no doubt that the world has suffered a great loss with the passing of  South Africa’s “greatest son,” his life and the way he chose to use it was a gift to all of us, and one that has made its mark on the history of the world. One man. One ordinary man that was brave enough to claim an extraordinary destiny, and become so much more.

Not being rich enough, pretty/handsome enough,or any number of excuses…. even having a chronic disease like Juvenile Arthritis, are no excuse to not make your mark on this world. Although he is known for so much more, Nelson Mandela taught me that, and he made me teach my kids the concept as well.


We can all make our mark, if we aspire to greatness, to what is good, and what is right. As he said during the World Cup…Its in our hands now. Thank you Mandela, and rest in peace.





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