Friday, December 6, 2013

Love Always Wins!

-the desert just after sunset-

Yesterday, after hearing of the death of Nelson Mandela, I found myself close to tears. In fact, I was like that for most of the evening. 

My tears were not tears of sadness - sorrow at the passing of a great man. Rather, my tears were tears of joy, victory and celebration. If you ever need evidence that love is more powerful than hate, just look at the life of Nelson Mandela. 

I think it would be a great tragedy if, now that he is dead, Mandela is memorialized as a saint- a far distant figure in a stained glass window, a life far beyond that of any ordinary person. In fact, during his lifetime, Nelson Mandela regularly referred to himself as an ordinary person, "I am not a prophet," he said, "and I am not a saint, unless you define a saint as a sinner who keeps on trying." 

I look at the life of Nelson Mandela and I think of the potential each and every one of us, ordinary people, has to change the world when we embrace it with compassion and open our arms to one another in a spirit of reconciliation. 

I look at the life of Nelson Mandela and I picture him sitting in an 8x8 prison cell for 27 years. I imagine the kind of bitterness and resentment he could have built up during those years against the enemy that had captured, abused and imprisoned him.

Those years in prison could have provided him with ample time for plotting and planning revenge and retribution - what he would do if and when he was freed to crush his oppressors and give them a taste of their own medicine.

Instead, during his years in prison, Nelson Mandela was practicing compassion and harboring thoughts of forgiveness. During his prison years, Mandela was losing himself in order to find himself. 

He once said:

Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies

When he was freed from prison, he could have led a revolution - many expected he would; many of his own people wanted him to muster the troops in violent retribution - payback time. 

Instead after 27 years, he walked out of an 8x8 prison cell and issued a universal call for reconciliation among the races. He walked the extra mile down the road of reconciliation by learning the language of his white oppressors, and extending the hand of friendship, welcoming them to sit at a place of dignity at the table of the nation. 

In the end, Nelson Mandela's compassion, his spirit of forgiveness and his efforts at reconciliation led to  the creation of a society in which people, who just decades earlier were bitter enemies, now embraced one another as fellow human beings with equal dignity. 

This morning's paper featured images of the crowds outside the Mandela residence - white people, black people, rich people, poor people, young people and old people - embracing each other, dancing and singing together. It was a grand victory celebration. 

A nation changed; the entire world changed, all because of one ordinary man, a "sinner who kept on trying" stepped out of an 8x8 prison cell after 27 years and decided to forgive and to reconcile rather than to hate and resent. 

In the end,  Love always wins!

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