The Way I See it: Mandela’s words provided inspiration

Michele Blais shares some of her favourite quotes from beloved anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela

Christmas is often a time when people come together to forgive each other.  Nelson Mandela taught the world to forgive. He was an amazing gentle man who touched the lives of so many beyond the borders of South Africa and all those who lived within.

Over the years his quotes have adorned my office bulletin boards, or my refrigerator, so that my sons, too, could look to the words for inspiration and guidance to sometimes be what we need to carry us through a decision, a process, a life lesson.

“There is no passion to be found playing small, in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.” I have read that quote so many times and sometimes there is comfort in our simple life, and even in the simplicity of that choice we are capable of greatness. We are not all going to be world leaders, however we are all able to make a difference to one. I think we should never underestimate the power of one to change the world, or the world of someone. Reaching out to a neighbour in need, working on a community project, teaching a child. An act of kindness to a stranger who is stuck on the side of the road that enables them to get home to their family, or filling a backpack for someone who attends the Mission so for this winter they have somewhere for their belongings, to enjoy warm gloves, and thick socks, find comfort where there feels like none. Are we living the life we are capable of living, and what does that mean to you?

He did so much to educate about human rights, and improving our societies.

“To deny people their human rights, is to challenge their very dignity.” “There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children”

So often people would think it can’t be accomplished, yet “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”

And when he left prison, “there is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered.”

“If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.”

Mandela’s ability to come out of prison not as an angry bitter man, and to be able to forgive his captors and work with them took incredible personal strength and taught us so much. And it is what we will do with those lessons that will aid in our own legacies.

In our life we don’t face the decisions or struggles that Mandela faced, however there will be times when we may face challenges that feel like battles.  Mine have been around work and usually this frustration was with government decision-makers whom I felt did not understand the positions we were taking. What I learned early on, was to be in the room with the decision-makers, not in the hallway, marching. Working with and listening to both sides, developing partnerships will accomplish far more.

“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 the fear.”

“A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination.” A motto to live by.

“If there are dreams about a beautiful South Africa there are also roads that lead to their goal. Two of those roads could be named Goodness and Forgiveness.”

The world was fortunate to have known Nelson Mandela and he will be remembered as one of the greatest, let us look upon his life and his actions for guidance.

A wise friend from South Africa posted this comment, “May his death remind us all to forgive the past wrongdoings and live every day to improve the lives of those around us, As Mandela said, “love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”

May you enjoy peace and love this season with your family and friends.

Michele Blais is a longtime columnist with The Morning Star, writing on a variety of topics and appearing every other Sunday. She has worked with children and families in the Vernon area for the past 27 years.

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