Thursday, December 5, 2013

bless you, Nelson Mandela

"We must use time wisely and forever realize that the time is always ripe to do right."

Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela has been a presence in my life my whole adult life.  I cut my political chops on the anti-apartheid movement in the 1980's.  I learned about humanity, justice, equality, forgiveness, commitment, the importance of using my voice to create change.  "Free Nelson Mandela" was an anthem of my youth.   

His release from prision in 1990 was a connecting point in a new friendship.  I remember phoning Christy when I heard the news of his release.  We never thought we'd see the day...  A group of us gathered to watch his interview with Barbara Frum on CBC.  Thanks, Barry, for having a television.

And then, I saw him speak.  His first public appearance outside of South Africa after his release.  I left work early, under the guise of a doctor's appointment.  The MontrĂ©al Jubilation Gospel Choir performed, the crowd gathered, the energy built.  The cheering & out pouring of love & respect settled, and a hush fell over the crowd.  I had lost my friend in the crowd and, I looked around at the people I was sharing this experience with.  A suit wearing, middle aged, seemingly conservative businessman stood beside me.  Tears streaming down his face.  23 years later, and I remember it in my heart as if it were yesterday.  

The event came to an end and people started to disperse, I had a floaty, other worldly feeling.  Kind of the post-meditation light & bright feeling.  I started making my way home, seeing MontrĂ©al & the people around me in a whole new way.  

Mandela had a second speaking engagement that day, at a church close to my home in St. Henri.  I passed by, in my floaty state of being.  The church was full to overflowing.  Hundreds of people surrounded the church, listening to him through the speakers mounted outside.  The hope that filled the streets was palpable.  

I think that it is that HOPE that has spoken to so many people over the years.  To be hopeful in times of hardship, to be forgiving in times of injustice, to be loving in the midst of anger, to be inspiring in times of hopelessness, to find a voice when being silenced.  This is the legacy Nelson Mandela leaves in my heart.  

Bless you, Nelson Mandela.

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