Thursday, December 5, 2013

Thank You, Madiba, for the Gift of Your Life

"The South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was set up by the Government of National Unity to help deal with what happened under apartheid. The conflict during this period resulted in violence and human rights abuses from all sides. No section of society escaped these abuses."―The official Truth and Reconciliation Commission Website

Thinking of Nelson Mandela today as his soul departed his body, reminded me of the wonderful lessons I have learned in my life. Most of those lessons came through what I may have at one time called hardships. When my grown children were small, they were given a baseball card picture of Madiba by their father who had visited and briefly met the aging leader. The picture was proudly displayed in their bathroom for many years until it frayed and finally disappeared. I smile when I think of that picture. I smile when I think of all of the wonderful lessons that came from that time in my life, and I smile when I think of the gift Nelson Mandela has given us all by teaching us the power of forgiveness by his grand gesture as South Africa's first African leader.

The Truth and Reconciliation Committee, erected by Nelson Mandela after apartheid was abolished, was an act of faith. The 39 page charter titled Promotion of National Unity and Reconciliation Act 34 of 1995 could only exist within the divine gaze of a man who transcended the hardship of Robben's Island by understanding that when one suffers, all suffer, and when one of our brothers or sisters in our community is wounded, we collectively need healing. Madiba healed his community by encouraging victims to voice their experiences through 19 internationally held public hearings, and to grant their abusers amnesty. The magic of giving voice through story coupled with forgiveness mended a wounded South Africa.

My understanding that nothing happens to me, but it happens for me is steeped in Madiba's grace of healing through forgiveness. The specter of the divine was at his right hand when he stepped into the position of leading a fractured South Africa. Madiba instinctively understood what I struggled to understand―that we act in harmful ways when we are wounded and that only love and understanding can bring about healing. 

Madiba's grace and smile remind me that every situation in my past, present and future is of my own creation. My ability to create love and harmony is tethered to the love and harmony Madiba cultivated in his country. When a spirit departs this earth, the gift of that life is infused in all who knew that person. We knew Nelson Mandela through his deeds, words, spirit, and smile. We all have been touched by the mighty Madiba's gentle hand. Let his passing this realm into the next embolden us, enrich us, and instruct us as he instructed a nation with one simple goal―unity―accomplished with one simple gesture―forgiveness.