Thursday, December 5, 2013

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One reason I am grateful for my liberal arts education is that someone made me read A Long Walk to Freedom.  Unfortunately, I don’t think I would’ve ever picked up Nelson Mandela’s 600 page autobiography if it hadn’t been on my History of Southern Africa course syllabus.

After I learned of Nelson Mandela’s death I drove home and found my copy of the book.  My name is written on the inside cover and I notice my handwriting looks a bit different now.  I start paging through it.

Terrible news came out of the Central African Republic today.  A colleague called to ask if I’d heard.  One hundred people are dead.  He tells me the story of a three-year-old boy whose legs are cut off right in front of his father.  The child bled to death.

I have a global career that every so often touches pieces of stories not altogether unlike this one.  And while I often find myself optimistic about the trajectory of our world, sometimes it all becomes just a bit too heavy.

We have covered much ground, but there is still a great deal of room for healing, for reconciliation, for hope.  There is a certain sadness knowing that Nelson Mandela’s presence, guidance and insight would be so exceptionally helpful as we collectively, as a world, navigate the way forward.

But, for tonight, what I have is a very heavy book and the hope that his memory might lead us, each in our own way, to involvement.  Maybe it’s taking an extra moment to understand a point-of-view that is different to ours or purchasing a Christmas gift that will make a difference for someone else far, far away or maybe it’s simply holding our nearest and dearest extra close this holiday season.

I’m hopeful that Nelson Mandela’s life will continue to remind us that in the face of really, really heavy times, we can choose involvement – trusting that in some small way our action matters.



[ In case you’re looking for gifts that do good, here are a few from UNICEF, Oxfam, World Wildlife Fund, St. Jude’s, Heifer International, Every Mother Counts and World Bicycle Relief. ]


  • Jim

    Thank you, KW. President Mandela will be missed. His long walk will be continued by many who learned from him. President Mandela stared down fear to reach his vision. Now South Africa is a better place.

    “Do one thing every day that scares you.”
    Eleanor Roosevelt

  • meghan @ little girl in the big world

    This is a nice post. I was an African History minor and took a class on “The Making of Modern South Africa” and learned a lot about Nelson Mandela in that class. His story is inspirational, and it was strange, but I found myself holding back tears at the news of his death. I own that book as well, and I’ll have to go look at my copy when I head home at Christmas.

    • Kristin

      There aren’t too many of us who studied African History in college — that’s really neat. I felt really sad and somber at the news of his death as well. It was really neat to look through my old copy, I highly recommend it. So much wisdom and so much hope.

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