I read this evening of the passing of Nelson Mandela. As my mind absorbed this piece of information, a quiet sadness stole over me. I know of no other way to describe what I felt. Our world lost a wonderful person today, a person of stature and of honor. Nelson Mandela was one whose life was wisdom defined. And I do not speak of the watered-down intellect that passes for wisdom so often in our societies today. I am speaking of wisdom that is true and pure. Nelson Mandela traveled the roads which lead to true wisdom. He was indeed mindful that the trek would not be always a pleasant one and that those roads, the roads of Love and of Tolerance would be unpaved and unfrequented by the masses. Yet he freely chose to undertake this journey which is ironic since he was imprisoned for the choice he made so freely. Truly an amazing gentleman, this Nelson Mandela.
What you have just read are but a few of the thoughts I was having this evening. But then something unusual, even extraordinary began to happen. I began to wonder what Mr. Mandela’s view on his passing would be. It seemed almost that I could hear his voice in the room and he was saying, “My friend, do not weep nor be saddened by my passing. My life was of my choosing. Would you be so foolish as to believe that I did not know where the road I travelled would take me? I knew well the possible consequences of the stand I was making. But I chose to make that stand. There was no other choice for me. It was the reason I was placed upon this earth, my purpose for being here. You see, as much as I valued my own freedom, I valued the freedom of humanity even more. So please do not be sad for me, kind sir.”
I thought about this for a bit but could not be completely satisfied with the words I had heard. There was still another issue that disturbed me greatly. It was the injustice served upon this fine man. 27 years of imprisonment no less! One may as well say that one-third of Nelson Mandela’s life had been stolen from him. Where is the justice in that? I do realize that he experienced years of freedom upon his release from prison. But this is just wrong, isn’t it? Where is the retribution for those who so blatantly imprisoned this fine spirit? What of that?
As if hearing my thoughts, Nelson Mandela gently interrupted me and asked if I would listen for just a few moments and then perhaps I might come to understand his answer to my angry questions. He spoke to me then and I will never forget his words for as long as I have breath in my body. “I appreciate your concern for me”, said he. “But I would like you to do something for me just now please. Close your eyes for a moment and I will take your hand. When I do so, you will see the world of Apartheid as I saw it then. However, I only intend to give you a brief look for that is all you will need to see. Will you take my hand now?”
I did as he asked and took his hand in mine. What I saw in those few seconds was more horror, more pain and more hatred than you could possibly imagine. Tears flowed from my eyes and my heart broke as I saw thousands of people, good and kind people being beaten and being burned alive. There were bodies everywhere it seemed. I looked to my left and there was a mass grave where bodies lay one upon another. I swung my gaze to the right so as to escape the horrible vision of that grave and was only given a moments relief for there in front of me was one of the members of the Apartheid with hatred in his eyes and laughter on his lips. He was in the process of laying to waste a family who lived in a local village. It was much too much for my spirit. I broke down sobbing as I released my grasp on Nelson Mandela’s hand. When I opened my eyes, I was back here once again with tears running down my cheeks. The kind Mr. Mandela spoke once again to me in a voice that was as gentle as it was strong. He said, “My friend, perhaps you now see more clearly what this was all about, yes? Perhaps you know now why I made the choices that I made. Was it a sacrifice for me to do so? Indeed it was. Was it too great a sacrifice you might ask? No, it was not too great a sacrifice. It has been said that there is no greater gift then that a man lay down his life for a friend. As it turned out, I did not have to lay down my life but I would’ve done so had it come to that. You said the 27 years that were taken from me angered you? Well, I would be lying if I said that I was happy and in good accord with losing those years. But can you see what was gained here by the sacrifice that one person was willing to make? I showed to you a glimpse of Apartheid and the horror and injustice that ran rampant then. I was instrumental in ending that horror. It was the reason for my life, my purpose if you will. And by accepting and travelling the road appointed to me by Life, I was able to change the lives of millions of people. I may have some regrets but I do not regret taking the road chosen for me by my Creator. Oh and one more thing, if I may? You mentioned before that they had imprisoned my fine spirit for 27 years. You could not be more wrong. It was my body that was locked away. My spirit and my mind were always free and always will be. No one can imprison your spirit unless you give them permission to do so. Are we clear on that point as well?”
I could only nod my head in the affirmative at this point. My thoughts were swirling about in my mind, torn between the anger I had felt and the stunned disbelief I was now feeling. I mean, everything he had said made sense, of course. But I sensed there was something else present in this fine man who stood here. I knew what it was but couldn’t comprehend how it could be possible. You see, Nelson Mandela carried within him the Spirit of Forgiveness. He had forgiven those who wronged him long ago for all they had done to him. I looked at him again for he seemed to know my thoughts tonight. He smiled that great smile of his and whispered into my mind then….”Yes, good friend. You have the complete formula now. Love and tolerance = True wisdom. And when one has true wisdom, one truly knows the value of forgiveness because our greatest strength lies in the power of forgiving others. Now I would ask what it is you intend to do with this formula. For you see, with wisdom comes accountability.”
With my eyes brimming and tears spilling onto my cheeks, I bowed my head for I knew Nelson Mandela was correct. There was unforgiveness which was very much alive in my heart. I had always known that to forgive is divine and all of that. But I never had truly realized how much it was damaging my spirit. I determined then and there to make forgiveness a priority going forward. It will free those that I forgive, yes. But just as importantly, the act of forgiveness will give me permission to live fully and become strong in my heart once more. Love + tolerance=True wisdom=Forgiveness=Strength and Power! Wow!!
I raised my head to give a sincere thank you to Mr. Mandela, to shake his hand and see once more his smile. I was not altogether surprised when I saw he had left however. But the gift he bestowed upon me remained. I wish for you to have this formula as well. I am sure that Mr. Mandela won’t mind terribly. So, here it is for you one more time. Love and tolerance=True wisdom=Forgiveness=Strength and Power. Avail yourself to these words and apply them to your respective lives. Share this formula with those you know for it is the truth of life. Be blessed.
One last note here, if I may. I was hesitant in writing this and actually did not plan on it coming out the way it did. But I felt compelled to do so. With that said, I truly hope I did not take any careless freedoms with Nelson Mandela’s good name. He is a hero of mine and I would never disrespect him or the legacy he left us. Let us allow his wisdom to imprint upon our hearts and minds, yes? Nelson Mandela, I thank you for your goodness and for what you accomplished for this world with your life. You are a good man with a fine spirit which will continue to live among us, if we are wise.
Authored by William J. Thompson, Jr.