The Greatest Troublemaker for Peace: Nelson Mandela’s Legacy
Earlier this week, I wrote about how Yoruba people take names so seriously because we think it can determine your life’s path. As we honor the memory of the late, GREAT Nelson Mandela, I reflect on his middle name “Rolihlahla,” which is Xhosa for “troublemaker.” President Mandela was the troublemaker who changed the world because of his refusal to stay down in the face of monstrous injustice. He dared to think he had the power to make a change as he battled apartheid in South Africa. And he did it with peace and love.
Even as he sat in prison for 27 years, he stood strong with hope that the walls of Jericho in the form of apartheid would one day crumble. He fought tirelessly and went from convict to champion and from prison to President.
Yesterday, I was on a high from visiting the White House when I boarded my flight from Washington DC to Chicago. When I landed, I found out that Nelson Mandela had passed. It hit me in the chest when I boarded the train and tears were rolling down my face before I knew it. It was possibly also triggered because my iPod started playing “If God Was One of Us” as I reflected on the loss.
I knew he was sick and dying but his passing drives home the point that this “making the world a better place” work is for US to do now. That level of sacrifice is too big to even describe and who amongst us can find the courage to really inconvenience our lives for others?
What we’ve lost is not just a man but a symbol of hope and power. Mandela’s life was a testament to the power of ONE. What ONE person can do even when faced with what looks like insurmountable hate.
Which one of us can say we’d lay down our lives for the greater good of the world? Who amongst us would sacrifice our own freedom for the freedom of others? How do we fill this void?
Every single time another one of our legends and icons dies, it hits me like a brick. Selfishly, I think about how the world is less brave, less talented and less blessed from their passing. And I wonder how we can make up for it.
He said “For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” Madiba’s death reminds me that we cannot afford to sit down and be comfortable, especially those of us who are privileged to be in ANY positions of power. We are OBLIGATED to reach back and pull others up with us. That’s what living well really is. Living beyond our own needs and finding purpose that enriches the lives of others in some way. ALL of us need to commit ourselves to standing for something outside of ourselves. The guardians are dying and their work can’t be for naught.
For being a giant whose shoulders many of us stand on, for your innumerable sacrifice and for leaving the world a better place than you found it, THANK YOU.
Champion. Visionary. Warrior. Giant. Lion. Rest in Peace and Power, Madiba.
Please take time to watch the poem this little girl performed on South Africa’s Got Talent about Madiba. Wow.