I am fortunate to know many wonderful human beings. They are my family and friends… people so filled with love and loyalty, honor, kindness and respect. Without a single dollar, I would be rich because of them.
They are great human beings, simply because they care and they love. The value of this is immeasurable and is too often lost. We tend to give greater worth to the flash and brightness, instead of those who sit with us in the dark. We must not let this happen. The value of love and happiness and those who give it to us is what will save the world; and we must all strive to give love and happiness to others.
I have not personally met many world leaders, though I have been in their presence. I have not met many people who would be considered great on a global scale. In fact, at the moment I can only think of one.
Shortly after I had moved to LA, I was going to an event at one of the fancier hotels in town… I can picture the elevator, if not the exact building… It was either in Beverly Hills or Century City. Damn this memory…
I rode up in the elevator with Magic Johnson. We got off on the same floor… and while I knew I was in the wrong place I saw a ballroom filled with people. It was a celebration of Rosa Parks. I looked in, and there she was, sitting at a table with Whoppi Goldberg. I was stunned…
I walked into the ballroom and right over to her table. Now this was back before 9/11, so security was not at all what it is today. No one stopped me, and all I did was introduce myself and tell her what an amazing honor it was to meet her… I thanked her, turned and left. It was a moment I will never forget for the rest of my life. She was more than an icon, a character in my history book… She was the flesh and blood version of a hero.
While I was never fortunate enough to meet him, Nelson Mandela is of the same cut, the same silk… an icon, but a human being… history, but a man… and every ounce a hero, in flesh, blood and deed.
I would like to think that my instincts are more than just survival. I would hope and pray that I would run into a burning building to save my child, family, friends and dog… lay myself down on a railroad track or rush in front of a speeding car.
Doing those things is not heroic, because it would be an instantaneous decision. I think I would, I pray I would, but in the moment, who knows what the brain and body will do.
Those who train to do things that go completely against human nature and instinct are the true heroes… police officers, firefighters, and our military. They knowingly put themselves in harm’s way to protect us. They run towards danger, instead of away from it, which by nature is unnatural.
There are human beings who take this further… who put themselves in harm’s way very consciously, who stand up for what they believe in so strongly that they are willing to give up everything. They will fight so completely for a cause that they sacrifice family… friends… freedom… and even life. This is powerful. This is leadership. This is Nelson Mandela.
I am blessed to have been born in this country. And while I have experienced Ant-Semitism on a minor level, I have never been pulled over or harassed because of the color of my skin, like quite a few friends of mine. I thank the heavens for the freedom I was born into, the freedom I never had to fight for.
Nelson Mandela was not that lucky. For 27 years he was not that lucky. He sacrificed his own freedom, for that of his people, for that of the world. He was willing to die for it. But he never lost faith, never lost his full and open heart, and came out of prison freer than most free men. That is a lesson we all need to learn, for too many of us are trapped by our minds and by ourselves… living in freedom, but living without true love.
This is a man I knew through books and movies, classes and newspapers. He was history… and until today, was living history. That is rare to see, wonderful to behold, and hard to lose. We are all lucky to have had that in our lifetime.
The news of his passing had me shedding very real tears. For we have lost a teacher, a mentor, a friend. We have lost a piece of humanity and a part of the world’s soul. We have lost someone who understood the true meaning of freedom, something I am afraid I still take for granted, even with this deep reflection.
He taught us to not just tolerate, but to truly live side-by-side with people, in respect and acceptance.
President Obama said: “”He achieved more than can be expected of any one man… He no longer belongs to us. He belongs to the ages.”
His passing at age 95 must not be looked at as a tragedy. He lived a full, rich and wonderful life. While his passing is sad, the legacy he leaves behind is so powerful, so important, so deep, that this man will never be gone… will never be forgotten.
I offer a poem… One that Mandela turned to often.
I offer a song from another great visionary… a flawed man who used music to make change… who risked and fought…
So read… and listen… Crank up the Fela Kuti… raise a glass… and celebrate a man who actually did change the world. If ever you think it cannot be done, muster the courage, raise your hand and know you do not stand alone.
By William Ernest Henley
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate
I am the captain of my soul.