Do you have 67 minutes? It’s just a bit over an hour but it represents so much more. Sixty seven years is how long Nelson Mandela gave to fighting for the rights of humanity. Next Wednesday, July 18th is Mandela’s birthday which is becoming known as Mandela Day, a day to devote yourself for 67 minutes to making the world a better place.
I have been around for the destruction of the Berlin Wall, for the ending of the Cold War, but for some reason, the election of Nelson Mandela as President of South Africa in 1994 just seems to me to surpass all of these other events.
Thirty six of the 67 years were spent in prison by Mandela and I have a hard time relating to that. How could someone keep the faith while in prison for almost as long as I have been alive? He must have had more conviction than I could ever muster. Of course the greater oppression against you, the greater you must be to overcome it.
But not only did he overcome it, he created a body to expose the oppression without asking for recompense or revenge. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission he created gathered evidence from both victims and perpetrators about the wrongs committed under apartheid without prosecuting anyone. The last of their reports was released in 2003, five years after Mandela left the Presidency.
I was privileged to hear South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu speak after Mandela was released in 1990. He came to my college to give a speech in our chapel about how Christians are the hands and feet of Jesus. He was the chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and he spoke to us also of forgiveness and cooperation in the face of hatred.
Maybe that’s why Mandela’s release and subsequent election stays in my mind and sits higher than the other world events I mentioned. I truly do believe that Christians are the hands and feet of God. Mandela’s birthday is another chance to show people that we are.
For Non-Christians, it is a chance to share solidarity with a leader who brought a country through a transition from hatred to cooperation and peace.
I’m not sure what I’m going to do for Mandela Day. I contacted a couple of people about helping out in a hospice center or a homeless shelter but I haven’t heard back from them yet. One of the great things about the Mandela Day website is that it has a list of 67 ways to change the world.
I might use the 67 minutes to plan a Locks of Love event here in my hometown. Locks of Love provides wigs for children who have medical hair loss and I would like to do a hair cutting event to donate hair for the wigs. I would love to hear what you would like to do to change the world, whether you can do it in 67 minutes or not. Leave a comment and let me know!