I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear. (Nelson Mandela)
It was the fifth of December in the middle of the night, when I read the news. Everyone was talking about a storm. Only a short message told about the death of Nelson Mandela, freedom fighter and South Africa’s greatest hero.
I was never busy to follow somebody’s curriculum vitae and it did not matter if he or she was a famous musician or a political person. I just did not care about what they did in their private life. This is maybe why I do not know that much about Nelson Mandela. But I know far more than of many other people that are more often in the news. Why is that?
I first heard of Nelson Mandela when I was in school and a girl talked about politics in South Africa. It was very important to her and I immediately knew how she felt about her topic. Sometimes the importance of something just runs through your veins without your head understanding it completely. Actually I do not even remember what she told us about Nelson Mandela, but I remembered this name, which may be more important than anything else, because names never stay in my mind longer than five seconds. I also knew that this was a person, I should respect for what he had done in his life.
It was a talk about Mahatma Gandhi, that brought our philosophy course also to talk about Nelson Mandela. This time I learned that he fought for freedom in his country just as Gandhi did. He was imprisoned for his behavior against the apartheid regime and stayed in prison though he had some opportunities to flee. Instead he fought for his fellow convicts to be treated with respect. It is this that I remembered every time I heard of Mandela. My old friend, who then held that presentation, also told me about his name „Madiba“. It is how he was called by South African’s to show him respect.
Later I also learned that he brought the change in politics in South Africa, not with weapons, but with talk and negotiations. I could never imagine how he did that, but sometimes you have to believe the unbelievable. He did it and afterwards he paid his former opponents with respect and tried to understand what they did.
I asked myself if there can be any better teacher for us for whenever we are in an equal situation and want to ignore or even humiliate somebody because we did not agree with how he or she acted. It is those situations that make it hard to behave appropriate. It is anger, rage, contempt, strong feelings that can control us. He showed that it is also possible to control those feelings and act respectful anyway.
I am sad to hear that this person has died for he was a light in the world that will be missed now. On the other side I am also glad for him for he was very sick in the last years and now his sufferings have an end. He became 95 years old and, with such an history, I guess that is a feather in his cap!
Thanks, Nelson Mandela, for what you did to this world and what you taught me already in young age without even knowing it! And thanks for showing us how to smile even in and after dark times! Thank you!