Article written by André Salvage
When I heard the news that Nelson Mandela had died, I felt a shift in the universe. We had lost one of this world’s iconic symbols of hope and change. I never had the honor to meet him, but like so many great leaders of our time that found the courage to be ready to die or be imprisoned for their beliefs, his life and work has inspired and taught me many life lessons. One of the more powerful things I learned from him is that love is our true nature’s natural way to be. He said:
“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”
I remember growing up in an environment that was asking me in both overt and subtle ways to use hatred and resentment as a way to overcome poverty, and that kept seeping into my consciousness. I remember thinking that I just couldn’t be that angry all the time, that hatred felt like a coat of needles that pricked every part of me and everyone I came in contact with. I instinctively knew that love was a more powerful way, but at times it can make you appear weak and submissive. Men like Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King and Gandhi who used nonviolence peace and love as a tactic to overcome oppression, were inspirational and gave me hope that love was stronger than hate.
I don’t subscribe to the agreement that a person's effectiveness on this earth is measured by the number of people they speak to or touch. We hold in high esteem those people who are in leadership roles over others. When it comes to changing a system that is not working, like the one in South Africa, I believe there were many people… black, white and Indian… who either by dramatic and demonstrative gestures of rebellion, or quiet personal statements, effected the change that brought about the critical mass necessary to reverse the stagnation of apartheid and propel that nation towards reconciliation and peaceful coexistence.
However, I recognize and I believe that there are beacons of light and inspiration that rise up out of the masses and take a leadership position that we can rally behind for guidance and clarity. Nelson Mandela was the symbol of hope that country needed as well as for the world. His passing saddens me and my condolences and prayers go out to his family and close friends who knew him so well. Having recently lost my mother and seeing her struggle with illness in her final days, I am glad that this warrior has a chance to rest from the discomfort that is caused by our bodies declining to make a transformation. I, like so many, will miss his presence, the mere fact that he was still with us, gave us a constant reminder that through diligence, wisdom, courage, love and a certain amount of strategic troublemaking, one can bring about necessary changes.
There’s a Native American prayer that I often pray when I am asking guidance from the Great Spirit. The last line of the prayer says:
“Make me always ready to come to you with clean hands and straight eyes so when my life fades as the fading sunset, my spirit will come to you without shame.”
I am sure that Nelson Mandela has connected to the Great Spirit with clean hands, straight eyes and without shame.