A great man died yesterday.
I don’t use that term lightly. We often tend to “idolize” individuals whose claim to fame may be their singing, their sports prowess, or some other more fleeting focus.
But Nelson Mandela was truly a great man.
I cannot imagine spending 27 years in prison, many of them in a cell that is only 8×8…and making friends of my jailer…coming out of that situation having learned the language of my enemies…bringing a deeply divided nation together…walking away from the political power gained…and never expressing bitterness and hatred. Nelson Mandela did just that.
He was not a wimp–not by any means. He was not afraid to speak bluntly, but it was always with an eye towards finding ways of bringing people together rather than separating them.
He was not perfect. None of us are. But I think that’s part of what made him so influential. We could see his humanity…know his struggles and yet see how he was still able to look for the good in all the individuals he came in contact with.
I’m reminded of a statement from the courtroom scene of the movie To Kill a Mockingbird. Atticus Finch has lost the trial and the courtroom has emptied of all the whites. The African-Americans in the balcony stand in respect–and remind Finch’s daughter (who has been watching the trial secretly) to stand–a great man is passing.
We all today stand in respect. Truly a great man has passed. Rest in peace, Nelson Mandela.