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When the news of Mandela’s death reached me, my first thought about it was, ‘why do good people die?’ It is possible there are similar reactions all over the world. Mandela may be old, at 95, but just like good people who have sacrificed their lives for the good of Mankind, no matter the age which they have attained, no matter how long they have lived, we want them to live evermore. Why is this so? The answer is not far-fetched. They are icons we can look up to, a symbol of encouragement to learn to do good, give without reserve, sacrifice through sweat and blood and that selflessly for the good of humanity. Simply having them with us helps know we can do better than they did, and we can give our lives and yield far more soul-reaching results than they got. And so, I am thinking about humanity- myself and everyone who makes it up. I am thinking about sacrifice and love, selfless goals, compassion, the willingness to be an agent of change. I am thinking much more than this. I am thinking life and death, the entrance and the exit of a man as he comes in to the stage of life, does what he will and exit it. I am thinking Mandela.
I may not know the depth of Mandela’s story but I know enough to make me sit and re-think what exactly life is all about. Is it living and being comfortable? Is it getting your wants and needs? Is it in anyway tied to doing something that affects others, whether positively or negatively? What is life and living? Here is what I think it is. It is to exist with the knowledge that you were not created to function alone, that there are people whose lives are tied to yours, people you must be responsible for. It is responsibility, that which comes from knowing you must do something to make the people you have found yourself amongst better, that they must not remain the same way you met them, whether they are the ones doing the leaving or you are the one. It is giving selflessly to meet their needs even as you meet yours, and in truth, meeting their needs will in some way meet yours. It is that simple. Living is not something you do for you; it is what you do for others.
The story of Mandela and his sacrifices are being told. Mandela had focus, even as he had dreams, and he walked in line with them; his focus was tied largely to humanity. Among the things Mandela fought for, freedom is the utmost; he was opposed to all forms of oppression and subjugation and he took it upon himself to create changes where there were needs. What are you willing to give for change to happen where you have noticed the need?
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In the world today, despite the unending fight for freedom, there is still slavery. On the 2nd of December, the United Nations observed the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery and contemporary forms of slavery were looked into and things that could be done to eradicate them. It is true that the path to freedom is no easy one but we must not stop treading it till total freedom is realized. In the words of Mandela, ‘We understand it still that there is no easy road to freedom. We know it well that none of us acting alone can achieve success. We must therefore act together as a united people, for national reconciliation, for nation building, for the birth of a new world’. It is easier for people to come together to fight for a cause and far more rewarding than for a single person to. Let us all be like-minded, joining hands and resources to make the necessary changes in our societies.
Also, in the words of Nelson Mandela, ‘the greatest glory in living lies not in never falling but in rising every time we fall’, I encourage those who have given up in the face of hardship; those who have tried time and time again to be agents of change but have factors be it societal or even of their own self stampede them. It is time to rise again. Dream anew, seek what needs be changed, set goals and find the strength to work, learning form past experiences and the life of this great hero, rise and rise till lambs become lions.
There may be some who are trying to be the change they seek in their society and perhaps they have worked and seen some changes in some areas, to them I quote these words of experience and wisdom, ‘I have walked the long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way. But, I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But, I can only rest for a moment, for with freedom comes responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not ended.’ This is not the time to rest. It is not the time to slumber. Rest will come, and that fully.It is possible that not everyone is a doer. Some are talkers but if the talkers can support the doers with ideas and words of encouragement, we will be extremely productive in enacting necessary changes.
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I am thinking of when Mandela was born in relation to when he died and the reaction of the entire world. I do not think when he was born there was much fuss about him, except maybe from his immediate family and if he hadn’t done all he did, his passing would have gone unnoticed except by the same family who knew of his birth- well, the remaining ones of course and his own procreated generation. It is indeed true as he said that ‘what counts in life is not the fact that we have lived. It is the difference we have made to the lives of others that determine the significance of the life we lead’ for it is the things he did with his life that we now make mention of. And so I ask, are you making any significant difference in someone’s life? What was the world doing when you were born? What would it be doing when you die?