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Life lessons from Nelson Mandela

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With the death of Nelson Mandela on Dec. 5, 2013, there are many sources of news about his life and his influence. One of the first announcements of the passing of Nelson Mandela was by President Zuma, current president of South Africa. Ten days of mourning have been declared by President Zuma to honor the life and passing of Nelson Mandela.

Mandela's wisdom was recognized by many. Erika Andersen wrote an article for Forbes magazine on August 21, 2013 titled Inspiring Quotes from Nelson Mandela on Leadership, Change and Life.

Mr. Mandela lived a long and incredibly hard life. His nearly 30 years in prison might have left him broken physically, mentally and spiritually. Of these, it is his spiritual strength that stands out above all else. When he was finally released from prison, he did not attempt revenge on those that had jailed him. He could have led an uprising that would have extinguished those that had imprisoned him.

Instead, he sat in negotiations that ultimately led to his presidency and the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993. He started his campaign to end apartheid in much the same approach as Mahatma Gandhi had done. Both were lawyers, and both attempted to use non-violence and the law to gain freedom and recognition for their people. After many years, Mr. Mandela realized it wasn’t working for the end of white rule in South Africa.

He helped to organize attacks by the members of the African National Congress, but the attacks were largely directed away from people and towards economic and strategic infrastructure targets. Ultimately violence didn’t work for Mr. Mandela either. What did work was his incredibly strong spirit that gave him his patience, his determination, and the absolute resolve to be a free man whether it cost him his life or not.

He was helped in his resistance by gaining recognition when he would not accept special conditions and treatment not afforded to others in his struggle. The recognition over time of Mandela's resolve led to the sanctions against South Africa, and the increased economic and social pressure to get him out of prison. His election to be the first black president of South Africa led the way for our own emancipation from white rule in the United States.

In reflecting upon the personal meaning of Nelson Mandela, this poem is offered.

Goodbye, Nelson.

The spear of Africa
is lying on the ground.
His soul is soaring
through the Universe.

He has been liberated now;
free from a body worn and wounded.
He is watching over all of us.
He stands tall and free forever in our hearts.

© Copyright 2013 All rights reserved.
Rev. Jim Hetzer

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