A Fare Thee Well to One Great Man – Nelson Mandela

Posted by on December 15, 2013 in On Life | 6 comments


by Christina Carson

Though I am tad late posting this blog, I am compelled to stop and honor the extraordinary Nelson Mandela. I have long had a soft spot in my heart for South Africa. I first came in contact with the South African culture when Canada took in many South African professionals fleeing the height of that country’s violence in the mid-1980s. Those who were willing to offer their services in rural areas were given the nod. Living in northern Alberta, I met a number of Dalai Lama, Nelson Mandeladoctors from that immigration and began to hear one side of the story of South Africa.

When Mandela was released from prison in 1989 and took his stance of forgiveness over vengeance, I stood awed. It reminded me of something Margaret Mead once said: Never ever depend on governments or institutions to solve any major problems. All social change comes from the passion of individuals. Only what lived within Nelson Mandela was far more than passion. His was a power in him to live integral to what he knew to be true, ultimately riding out beyond the emotional, the political and the profiteer. And to his nation he brought one true chance – the possibility to transcend a relentless history of racism and apartheid that tainted the psyches of the white ruling class.

I saw firsthand the impact of Nelson Mandela when I asked one of the doctors, who most typified the righteousness and racism of the privileged sector of South African society, what he thought now on his return from a visit to his homeland shortly after Mandela’s release. I was stunned to hear him say, “I was wrong. We cannot live this way any longer. We must learn to share this country with one another.”

I then visited the country in the early 1990s and began to think of it as perhaps a new home for me. I found myself once again single and felt a new frontier might help me move on. As well, that beautiful country and its new leader fascinated me.

I fell in love with South Africa’s natural beauty, its wildness, the spirit of its people, the laughter of the Zulus, and the heart of an ancient land still beating with such fervor. And I stood awed by the Black man who was shepherding this nation back to sanity.

On the day I left, I walked into the airport in Johannesburg. A young Zulu porter approached me and asked if he could help me with my luggage. An election was in the offing for the position of King among his people, the then present king seen as someone who might not work in the way Mandela was seeking to bring people together. Curious, I said to him, “Who are you voting for?” He looked at me a bit pensively and answered, “The King.” I raised my eyebrows in question. Only then did his huge smile beam across to me as he finished his sentence, “The King – Mandela.”

Every now and then at a critical time in some land’s history, a single individual will emerge and stand taller than all those around him. Whether a Washington, a Lincoln, or a Mandela, they give to us a new vision, one of such power and honor that those around them rise up and choose the long view, the road to truth, the inclusive design of a successful future.

Sometimes I think we belittle those of great social achievement by seeing them as saints. No one who has ever walked the road that Mandela did sees himself as saintly. Those byways are torturous. They skin the soul a well as the knees. Mandela knew best how to evaluate his life and offered us his wisdom for our own use as well:

“Do not judge me by my successes, judge me

by how many times I fell down and got back up again.”

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  1. A great man indeed and a lovely tribute, thanks Christina!

    • Christina Carson

      Thank you, Claude. Always good to hear from you. It is a wonderful country. I do so wish it well. Have a lovely Christmas holiday.

  2. It’s never too late to honor greatness, and done with such gentleness and wisdom. Thank you Christina!

    • Christina Carson

      You are indeed right. It never ceases to amaze me at how truly great human beings can be when they get deeply in touch with their center of truth. A lovely Christmas to you.

  3. Nelson Mandela was an ordinary man who did extraordinary things and, Christina, you hit the nail on the head. Too often, we elevate such people to some extraordinary status, a demigod or even God. This habit tends to excuse us from attempting to emulate such people. After all, who am I to seek to emulate a god? And, when these people fail to live up to such high expectations (which all must fail), they are torn down with a vengeance. It is far better that we celebrate deeds worth celebrating, to emulate deeds worth emulating, and allow the people who perform them to rest in peace.

    • Christina Carson

      Isn’t it interesting that it is our fear of touching our own greatness, whatever form that may take, that has us so regale and revile those that actually put it on the line. I remember Thich Gnat Han, a Buddhist monk exiled from Vietnam because of his stance on war, saying( my paraphrase ) that the miracle of Jesus wasn’t what he did but who he was. That is the miracle to whatever degree, in us all. Thanks for your inspired words, Jack, and have a lovely Christmas.


  1. A Fare Thee Well to One Great Man - Nelson Mandela - Digital Book Today | Digital Book Today - [...] guest blogger is Christina Carson author of several books including Suffer the Little Children (4.9 stars, 22 [...]

Thoughtful comments are always welcome!


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