MANDELA DAY – MAKE IT MEANINGFUL
On Saturday South Africa and the world will commemorate Mandela Day. The introduction of the day was a decision taken by the United Nations in November 2009 to declare 18 July, his birthday, “Nelson Mandela International Day” in recognition of the role played by Nelson Mandela. The day recognises his dedication to the service of humanity, in the fields of conflict resolution, race relations, the promotion and protection of human rights, reconciliation, gender equality and the rights of children and other vulnerable groups, as well as the upliftment of poor and underdeveloped communities. It acknowledges his contribution to the struggle for democracy internationally and the promotion of a culture of peace throughout the world.
The commemoration was introduced in response to a call by the Nelson Mandela Foundation to devote 67 minutes of time to helping others because for the 67 years that Nelson Mandela devoted to the service of humanity — as a human rights lawyer, a prisoner of conscience, an international peacemaker and the first democratically elected president of a free South Africa.
Nelson Mandela who became a legend in his own lifetime was described by the former DA Leader Tony Leon as “…one of a very small category of leaders born with a special kind of grace who seems to transcend the politics of his age….”
On Saturday we will see millions of people, especially in South Africa. but also all over the world going out to perform various acts of kindness with a generosity of spirit and material gifts as their tribute to this iconic South African. Many communities and people will benefit from this generosity, people with no food will be nourished, people who are cold will receive blankets, lonely people will receive a visitor for company, dilapidated buildings will be renovated and many more innovative and creative activities will be undertaken.
Of course, politicians from across the political spectrum will be out in force to demonstrate their commitment to and support of those ideals and practices that came naturally to the great man. Each one trying to prove their commitment to his legacy.
Considering that this may be the first time that you have seen or heard from your local elected public representative make the most of it, you may not see him/her again until they need your vote. Wouldn’t it be nice if every Councillor or Member of Parliament would spend just 67 minutes on Saturday attending to and resolving a service delivery problem in their constituency? If every public servant that is paid to be of ‘service’ to the public, used the occasion to actually spend 67 minutes to implement a decision of benefit to the citizens, after all it is their taxes who pay the public servant’s salary.
I am not for one minute suggesting that we should stop these random acts of kindness nor spurn the generosity of the donors nor disappoint the recipients of these kind deeds. Everyone should be encouraged to participate and the activities expanded.
My wife Lorraine and I have already decided that we will once again be part of the action in the hope of helping to improve the quality of life for someone.
However, as good and well meaning as these actions are they are short term and in many way superficial. While reflecting on Mandela’s word that “We can change the world and make it a better place. It is in your hands to make a difference.” I started to ponder what single act could be done by everyone to make a difference thereby making the world a better place.
In my opinion probably the noblest characteristic that President Mandela displayed was one of ‘tolerance’ which enabled him to become the man he was.
One of the best definitions that I have seen of tolerance is:
“Tolerance is the positive and cordial effort to understand another’s beliefs, practices and habits without necessarily sharing or accepting them”
Bearing this in mind I am asking you to, over and above, any other activity that you may do on Saturday is for just 67 seconds think about this and how you can be tolerant, imagine if every person performed just one act of tolerance on Saturday what a difference it may make. Think what it could mean if the taxi driver tolerated stopping at a red robot instead of speeding through and possibly killing an innocent person. If you tolerated his intolerance and published details of his vehicle on social media rather than chasing after him and ending up in a violent confrontation which may end in violence with unnecessary consequences.
The beauty of tolerance is that it has no limitations, it costs nothing, any person irrespective of race, language, gender, religion, whether they are week or strong, no matter where they live or what their circumstances are can show an act of tolerance. Anyone from the most powerful world leader to the frailest pensioner can be in a position to perform an act of tolerance.
You may never know what effect your particular act of tolerance achieved, perhaps the young child not killed by the taxi driver skipping a red robot may go on to discover a cure for cancer, maybe become a springbok fly half – who knows, but it could happen.
If we believe in it strong enough, practice it often enough maybe, just maybe one day it will become a way of life.
A dream, yes? Possible, certainly. Probable, unfortunately unlikely. Worth a try, most definitely.
Until next time,
NOTE: I intend to launch an online pledge “In commemoration of Nelson Mandela and his legacy of tolerance I pledge to perform an act of tolerance today and when and wherever I can in the future”. Please support this and circulate it to as many contacts as you have.