How does one define a great life? I think one measure of greatness has to be with having taught others. Did you come to this world to teach? What was the lesson? Did you leave the world a better place? Madiba’s life was a great life. His was a spirit, a soul sent to teach us so many lessons; lessons that took 94 years of his presence to teach us.
This is not homage to a dead man. The fact is Madiba will never die. Here are the 10 lessons, and counting, that I learned from him.
1. The first of many lessons was patience. We need patience in the face of our adversaries. The simple response is to meet their evil with violence. But what would the lesson be in that? That the one with the most imagination for evil wins? No. Madiba taught us something deeper and more meaningful awaits the world when we meet evil doers (as recalcitrant children) with patience in our eyes.
2. Another great lesson from Madiba is that of sacrifice. You must be willing to sacrifice your personal safety and peace for the greater good. The high road is not an easy one. It’s not a comfortable one. It’s one that leads you to the mouth of the apartheid/racist/evil beasts. You become the mark of their antithesis. You are not hidden or blended in the many, your face is used for dart practice. Instead of running into a cave to silently await their epitome, you give your life to that cause. By that sacrifice, all others are saved and find a voice and strength to fight on for justice.
3. There is a difference between being in the right and justice. While justice permitted the imprisonment of the architects and perpetrators of evil, the right option would be to end feud by choosing to teach by example. Justice would have permitted a global feud between whites and non whites. Doing the right thing permitted even some whites to see how evil their regimes have been.
4. Being right is not always popular. Everyone expected Madiba to wage an outright war on whites in SA (and those around the world who supported the apartheid regime) for his false imprisonment, and for having kept his people in subjugation. However, Madiba taught us that more love can grow in our hearts from pain. That having been victims of evil does not mean we cannot grow even higher in our love and compassion. In fact, we become immune to it.
5. We don’t live in a just world. The most unjust are leading us into evil. Instead of separating ourselves from them, we must teach them. The concept of Umbuntu does not permit us to live in isolation atop a hill waiting for our sole deliverance. We must join the dirty, the ugly and evil, to permit us all to live in a just and good world.
6. Don’t let pain overwhelm our being. It’s easy to give in to the pain and suffering. The best we can do for ourselves, and the greater good, is to dig further into forgiveness and peace of mind.
7. Find good in the pain. I cannot imagine what his life was like not having been there to see his children grow up. All the tears he did not dry. All the stories he did not get to tell. But instead, he understood his life as a gift to the world, not just his family. Instead of focusing on what his children were missing, he thought of all the children, from Egypt to Zimbabwe, who were denied basic human rights.
8. People can change, at least, pretend to. Madiba was considered one of the world’s most infamous terrorist. The US only removed him from their list in 2008. Now, he is comparable to God like men who formed world religions.
9. You don’t need to be a god to fight for justice. You just need a good sense of right and wrong.
10. In the words of Bob Marley, “many people will fight you down, when you see the light. But let me tell you if you are not wrong, then everything is all right.” Madiba!