Tuesday, July 19, 2011


Today was Nelson Mandela's 93rd birthday. A few years ago a campaign was started on Mandela's birthday that encouraged South Africans to spend part of the day helping those less fortunate. Amazingly enough it has actually taken off. Today my cousins volunteered for charity, my Mom donated clothes to a children's home and our church celebrated the opening of the a newly built dormitory for disabled school children. I was hoping to donate blood today, I was a donor before I became ill in 2009, but unfortunately I am still waiting for clearance from my doctor to start donating again.

I am careful of not turning people into gods, but like everyone else I am amazed at Mandela. I was afraid of him when I was very young- my grandmother was responsible for that. They called him a terrorist. But when I actually questioned why he was so bad and what a terrorist was, no one could ever come up with what I thought was a good enough answer...I was just told he "made trouble". The truth is I learnt was true freedom was from Mandela and I only realised the value of it once his plight became known to me.

Most of you will know his story: He spent 27 years- the length of time I have been alive in tiny space no bigger than my bathroom. What is not widely reported now, even by Mr Mandela himself is the torture that he and his fellow activists suffered all because they wanted to be treated the same as white people. He was a husband and father- he missed the growing up of all his children. He sat in prison knowing that his family were being terrorized and isolated because of him and he could do nothing to help. I can't imagine the pain and unbearable agony he must of gone through.

The most important lesson I learnt was when he was realised from prison in 1990. He forgave. How he could forgive always used to strike me dumb- those people ruined his life. As an adult I now realise one of the reasons he was able to forgive. He knew what his reason for living was. His life had a purpose and a passion- something most people spend their whole lives looking for. He had a purpose and he was willing to die for it. They may have placed him behind bars but he already had freedom in his own heart.

We may be born into a country where democracy prevails. We may grow up having everything we ever wanted. We can travel the world but if we do not have freedom with in our hearts and souls, we might as well be locked in a prison. I believe some of the greatest battles in history have not taken place between enemies, but within a heart and a mind. It's like thinking you are in darkness when the sun has already risen. It's seeing the world in grey when it is actually bursting with colour. It is love, it is happiness and it is where life starts. It is understanding that You. Are. Actually. Free and not just thinking it.

I am including a poem called "Invictus" by William Ernest Henley  being read by Morgan Freeman, who played Nelson Mandela in the movie Invictus. While in prison Mandela was inspired by this poem and kept it close to his heart. It is reported that he would recite this to the other prisoners. This poem says best what I am trying to say. It means "unconquered" or "undefeated". Thank- you Madiba for this lesson.  http://youtu.be/9oIKqeZWjis

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 punishment the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.


  1. He is so amazing. I have heard him interviewed a couple of times on TV. He conveys so much peace. I believe you are correct; he can share the forgiveness and peace because he has it in his soul.

    Happy birthday to him!

  2. Hi Stephi,
    That is a great poem, and Invictus is a great movie and book. The way the author excised the fact that most of the New Zealand team in that world cup was suffering from food poisoning was a bit dishonest, but the story is still a good one.

    From everything I've read Mandela seems like a very smart, warm person of great integrity. To endure what he did, to forgive his jailers, and to help South Africa transition from white to majority rule without the country falling into civil war or becoming a total mess like Zimbabwe was an amazing achievement.

    I hadn't heard that South Africans are using his birthday as a time to help the less fortunate, that is awesome. Anything that gives people the chance or motivation to do that is great, and I hope someday soon you can donate blood once again.

  3. I admire Mandela so much! I saw the film Invictus here in the U.S. and loved it. Mandela is an amazing person, and he has done so much for South Africa, and made such an impact on the whole world. I think it's wonderful that your family and your whole country are celebrating his birthday by helping others. What a great tribute. I actually heard about that here on the news. I do hope that you get to donate bloood again someday, Stephi. I'm sure you will.