The Other I

July 19, 2011

93 candles

Nelson Mandela celebrated his 93rd birthday yesterday.

He asked for the most marvellous birthday present.

He asked people to spend 67 minutes on the day doing something for somebody else.

It sounds like hundreds of thousands of people did.

12.5 million schoolchildren sang “Happy Birthday” before starting class.  Television and radio stations urged the nation to join in.    From what it sounded like on the news coverage here, practically the entire nation was singing Happy Birthday at 10:30 yesterday.

67 is the number of years Mandela spent in active public service.  Counting the 27 years in prison.  They must have been the hardest.  To keep hoping for so long, against what must have seemed insuperable odds that it mattered at all, to keep on believing that being locked up for so long could make any difference.

It sort of makes any excuses I offer for feelings of despair in the face of my helplessness look pretty thin.

I think, though, that Mandela would say he is one of the lucky ones.  He has lived to see the fruits of his struggle.  A lot of others didn’t.

But they mattered just as much as Mandela in the fight for freedom.

 

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