Yesterday it was announced to the world that Nelson Mandela had died. He was truly one of the five or ten great world leaders of the twentieth century. His story is rather well known worldwide. Born in a South Africa that was still under loose British rule, his early years are marked with a significant increase in racial oppression in South Africa. He joined an opposition party, the African National Congress, and this group practiced both civil and violent resistance to the oppressive laws. Eventually Mandela was jailed and remained there for 27 years. Upon release, he toured the world and was eventually elected President of South Africa. To be sure this is exceptional work that he did. It is because of this work that he is held in such high regard worldwide.
But is it this work by itself that causes him to be held in such high regard by so many people? I don’t think so. The reason that we revere people like him so much is that we know that he is a flat out better human being than we are. Same goes for people throughout history. St. Peter, Joan of Arc, signers of the US Declaration of Independence, Joseph Smith, Susan B. Anthony, Martin Luther King Jr., Harvey Milk, and others, depending on the particular group, are all held in incredibly high regard because individuals know that he or she is simply not that good.
We all know that these people are those few people who stopped talking and actually got up and did something. We know that we generally do not have that level of commitment or care to do anything. So we put these people up on pedestals that are so high we figure there is no point in even attempting to reach them and, of course, we ARE unable to reach them because we never really try. Such is the problem with a great many individuals; they fail to attain greatness because they never really try. Oh, sure, a person will say he tries to be the best or to be great, but the truth is, that is not the case. A good example of this is in athletics.
I recall watching a show on the Golf Channel about instruction. They had Tiger Woods’ former instructor on there and he talked about how Tiger practices. Basically, when not playing a tournament, Tiger will spend eight to nine hours a day practicing golf in some form. He does that six or seven days a week. That is not unusual for golfers at that level. Yet there are a great number of people who think they can practice for a hour or two a day, 2 or 3 days a week, and make it on the PGA Tour. That is simply not going to happen. If you want to be as good a golfer as a PGA Tour pro, you are going to have to practice like one. The same goes for the individuals I listed above.
We, as people, simply do not try to be as good as they were. For any number of reasons we simply find excuses to not do some good and make a difference in the world. Friends, if we really want to honor Nelson Mandela and all those other people we need to start acting like they acted. We need get up from our easy chairs, quit eating those turkey legs, and go out to help someone. I have said that I feel like if I can do five percent of the good things Nelson Mandela did, I will have done a great deal. If every person in the world did just one-half of one percent the good he did, I believe we could virtually wipe out problems like poverty and hunger. Yes friends, brothers and sisters, if we have a real desire to honor the life and times of people like Nelson Mandela we need to get out of our houses, shut our mouths, and start working. Otherwise, we would be just as well off forgetting them entirely.