"The word greatness is used far too randomly, effortlessly and frequently by too many people who cannot find the inclination to analyze the words they choose. But in isolated cases, with certain legends of society, the word can never be used enough.”
A couple of days ago we lost a true iconic name of the world to the sad but inevitable case of father time creeping up on him. Nelson Mandela was not just an iconic name, he was a person who stood up for what he believed in and stated what he thought was the truth (as it was). The consequences, like serving nearly a quarter of his life imprisoned, took on a secondary concern in comparison to what he stood for. Many people could take a leaf out of his book by not living in trepidation of stating words that are the truth.
I will never claim to have a depth of knowledge in history, politics or civil rights acts, but what I do know is there are occasional members of society whose sacrifices have resulted in a better life for those birthed generations later, like me. I was always a big fan of Nelson Mandela, even as a kid who barely knew anything about his life in prison or the reasons behind it. I guess the simple daily gazing into my African father’s eyes, with similar features and identical skin tone to Mandela, was enough resemblance to form an instant liking. My late father, although many years younger and not even close to the severity of Mandela’s experience, lived through the racist and discriminated days in the UK when he first came over on an immigrant packed boat with barely an English sentence to put together. I’ll always remember him telling me about particular politicians he would hear, crying out the words of “send them back.” You can only imagine how scared a young man in that situation must feel. Without his courage to rise above this bigotry, I wouldn’t be sat here today.
What stood out since the confirmation of Mandela’s final breaths are the scenes seen on television of the South African people. I accept this is a cultural distinction to how we would respond in the UK, but natives dancing in celebration of his life seems fitting in relation to the character he portrayed to the world. There never appeared any resentment on his face to the fact he had wasted 27 years behind bars. To me, his optimism shone through. He knew that people all over the world, not only in South Africa, would benefit from a more civilized existence due to his selfless ways. This was enough to bring a glowing smile to his expression almost every time he was seen.
What I liked most about him comes from my own observational fascination of human dynamics. Whether it was Muhammad Ali to David Beckham, Barack Obama to Michael Jordan, they all looked in awe when in his presence. But Mandela held no arrogant demeanour when alongside their pronounced infatuation. He seemed like a genuine and positive guy from next door who you could share a beer with and never be deemed inferior. He looked just as privileged to be with them.
I’ll never forget the tear in my eye as he fulfilled his dream to be pitch side in Johannesburg prior to the soccer World Cup Final in 2010. This wouldn’t have brought a smile to just the 53 million South African inhabitants. I sensed billions of people rejoiced in this moment.
Fortitude, strength, honesty, fearless, positivity, friendly, approachable, likeable, ignited and sacrificial are only a handful of words I use to describe the legend of Nelson Mandela. It only further illustrates how someone can balance characteristics, even as high profile as he was, and still be a totally impressive and charming man. This is why people, women and men alike, should take more time to get to know a person for how they come across or how they act, instead of lazily going down the route of the easy and negative perception of someone. Would a person rather be in the company of a good looking man with matching impressive personality, or an attainable looking man who acts in an unjustified arrogant manner?
But this post isn’t about any soap box for me to get on. This is my own dedication to an icon who will never be forgotten. Like many old, frail, suffering and weak people, he’s in a better place now. Nelson Mandela may not be with us any longer, but his legacy will never die.