For many people worldwide and South Africans, in particular, this has been a week of solemn reflection as we process the passing of Nelson Mandela (Madiba), hailed as the last greatest leader of the 20th Century. Of his many traits that have been highlighted, the one that stands out to me today is his great sense of timing. He had this talent in every sense – from his unique style of dancing coined the ‘Madiba shuffle’, his spot-on public speaking, the delivery of his many punchlines and jokes, to his political and leadership timing that hardly ever saw him put a foot wrong.
It is, therefore, not surprising to me that even in death, his timing has been impeccable. Today, 16 December – the day after his funeral – is the day us South Africans celebrate as the Day of Reconciliation. The focus of the day is for all South Africans to continue to work together to build a nation based on mutual respect and equality.
The past week has allowed us to reflect on the principles that Madiba and his peers held dear. It’s ensured that we’ve taken stock of what we’ve achieved and what still has to be achieved – making sure that we attain the right balance in striving towards a shared future.
Today is not simply a day off work, reflecting on the past. The nature of the day makes us look forward and also allows for some introspection – how are we, on a daily basis, working in the spirit of forgiveness? Do we allow little hurts that others – friends, relatives, foes, strangers – have caused us to fall away or do we hang onto them, allowing them to taint our future interactions and become bigger obstacles than they ought to be?
For me, as I reflect, I feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude that my children are ‘born frees’. The term ‘born free’ refers to children born after the fall of apartheid, who have (or SHOULD have) access to the same opportunities to realise their potential. Now, although my children would technically not have been ‘have nots’ under the previous government, I have termed them born frees because they have truly been brought up free from discriminatory thoughts. While they are aware that people have many different tones of skin colour, they do not care for labels such as ‘black’ and ‘white’. It makes no sense to them. They appreciate that people speak different languages and enjoy diverse celebrations. They are interested, intrigued and eager to consume knowledge about others that makes them true global citizens. They are free to do all of this without constraints to their thinking. What is even more remarkable, is that even though they have far greater knowledge about and interaction with other cultures, countries and people, they remain devoted to the country of their birth. They long for the feel of the African sand under their bare feet, the warm health-giving sunshine, the call of the jackal in the veld on a hot summer evening, and the vibrant colours and characters that paint our everyday lives.
The timing was perfect for the children to learn who Madiba was and why he was so important worldwide (simply told, but sufficient for them to have a better understanding). What great things they have learnt about forgiveness, about making a future that is nothing like your past and about being the very best person you can be each day. They’ve learnt it is possible to break expectations and exceed your own. They’ve learnt that the world is not always fair or right or kind, but it is how you respond to those injustices that is important.
How very fortunate us South Africans are to have a day set aside that allows us to carry out our own little reconciliation – seeking to find a better balance and having the opportunity to extend the olive branch, where needed. Today is the perfect day to reflect, free your mind from the negative thoughts that hold you back and move forward. You don’t need to be a South African to do all of this, and that is why I am sharing it with you.