The world lost an icon Thursday. Nelson Mandela, the first black president of formerly segregated South Africa, passed away at age 95. Like Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. before him, Mandela preached understanding and harmony in people of all nations, skin colors and genders. The international community mourns the loss of such a crusader for peace and love in our world.
Though he is physically gone, Mandela’s message need not be. His words ring true, not just in South Africa, where apartheid slashed a nation in two for so many years, but everywhere else as well.
In the U.S., where we are so focused on political correctness that we still fail to see people as just people and not the color of their skin or the sex with which they identify, love is a lesson that would serve us well. We are so worried about offending someone that we forget to love unabashedly and unceasingly, without regard to our differences but only amplifying that which makes us similar.
My favorite Mandela quote is this: “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”
In honor of all that Mandela did for race relations in South Africa and people throughout the world, love someone. Be kind. Smile at a stranger on a sidewalk. Make a new friend. Ensure that your words strengthen, not harm.
Most of all, be aware of the intrinsic humanity inside each of us, for it is the one factor that connects us all.