Monday, December 9, 2013

A Legacy of Choice ~ Nelson Mandela

Many thanks to the Washington Post for printing my letter to editor about Nelson Mandela's legacy. It was an honor to get to add to the tributes being paid to this man of peace. Due to space constraints what was in the Post was a slightly shorter version than what I originally wrote. So I thought I would post the whole piece here now that it has run in the paper.

Nelson Mandela’s passing is a great loss to all those who would live a life of peace. It is also a wonderful opportunity to reflect upon his legacy. While his life leaves us with an example of peace, non-violence and forgiveness, his greatest legacy to me is one of choice. He taught me that I can choose peace over war, love over hate, forgiveness over bitterness. The important part though, was that through his own life I learned that it is indeed an active choice, that sometimes you have to choose peace even when you feel great anger or frustration, that you can choose forgiveness when on the surface you have every human reason to hold on to your bitterness. Through his life I learned that the choice of love over hatred is always worth the effort of the choice.

His life didn’t demonstrate this to me because he lived a pristine life walking along the path of peace.  Rather his life taught me that while we live in a world where there is great discrepancy between what some have and what some don’t, whether what you have is power, money or food, and while those discrepancies can cause us to feel divided, angry and frustrated, we can choose what to do with those emotions. His life taught me that you can choose to sit in a prison cell, ill and mistreated and emerge angry or you can emerge with a will to bring change through peace, to bring love and unity to all you do.

Nelson Mandela made many choices in his life, choices made during a turbulent and difficult time in his homeland.  There were moments when he didn’t choose peace over violence. Yet, his life will be a lasting legacy of peace because despite a choice he made yesterday or last year or ten years ago, he knew that each moment held a new choice, a new opportunity to live in peace, to choose forgiveness, to offer love. That is the lasting legacy Nelson Mandela handed down to me. I am deeply grateful to him and the example of his life as I strive to make choices of peace, forgiveness and love in my own small ways every day. Thank you, Mr. Mandela. 

Lynda Allen

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