Nelson Mandela is a shining light for good. He personifies strength in the face of oppression, and brilliance in the face of ignorance. At so many junctures of his life when he could have chosen what was easy, he did not. He chose a life that was hard.
This is not to say he chose to be born into apartheid, and the horrors it entailed. Rather, he chose to be human in a system designed to steal his humanity. He chose strength when his society was built to sap that from him. He chose to stand out, when that meant risking his life and his freedom. He chose to hope, rather than submit to hopelessness. And, when he had the opportunity to lead, rather than recreating a system of hatred to his own advantage, he chose to lead with a vision of inclusion, reconciliation, and truth.
He is a true hero.
The question we are left with in his death is how to honor his memory with our own lives. How to find those opportunities for making choices and to make them for good, for hope, for the better, rather than recreating and enacting on each other the systems of division that are so familiar, and so crippling.
Nelson Mandela, thank you for your life, your compassion, and your example.
Here is a link to a celebration of Mandela by Johnny Clegg, South African artist, and anti-apartheid activist. Mandela comes out around 2:30.