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"What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead." — Nelson Mandela
Most will agree that Nelson Mandela lived a significant life.
Even Mandela himself saw that.
His story is remarkable, beginning as a young cattle herder, becoming a Christian at a Methodist elementary school, graduating from university, achieving the status of lawyer, a political activist, a prisoner, a head of state and a world icon. All in 95 short years.
Mandela obviously had passion. Combined with his sense of fairness and stubbornness to which his friends attested, he made a serious and effective opponent of apartheid. His friends were white; his friends and family were black. He did not believe one to be better than the other, but he saw the disparity in their lives in South Africa. Wealth found the white, while the majority of black South Africans lived in poverty.
As an educated man, whose parents were illiterate, he prepared himself to bear the standard for the war for equality, for democracy, for an end to racism, and all from a peaceful point of view. He became political, recognizing that as the avenue for change. He participated in, and in many occasions led, efforts against an apartheid government; he protested, he trained for and participated in riots, he organized and even became involved in sabotaging infrastructure of the South African government. The war took 40 years, from the early 1950s to the 1990s for Mandela, and through it all he advocated for no loss of life. He sought change in a way in which he could achieve it while not compromising his Christian beliefs, although others did not choose the same course.
His lack of hatred for the white South Africans — he welcomed some into his presidential cabinet — and compassion for people in general and the impoverished in particular won him their hearts and respect in the world community.
His funeral service this week illustrated his far-reaching effect. The poor and the rich, including 100-plus heads of state, gathered to honor a man and the crusade he led for the betterment of not only South Africans, but all world inhabitants today and forever.
He showed the world how to live from the heart, not to trample on others or to allow oneself to be trampled, but to earn respect and build respectful lives one day at a time — to live, to love, to work and to play together.
While what he hoped to achieve has not been fully realized throughout the world, his name and memory still convey a message to those who remain to carry on, following in his ways, applying his philosophy to the world's challenges. In that is the significance of Mandela's life.
Mandela died Dec. 5; his legacy lives on.