Today marks almost a week since the hero Nelson Mandela passed away.
Today also marks a year and five months since his story and legacy impacted me personally.
In the summer of 2012 I had to the opportunity to travel to South Africa with an organization called The Keno Foundation. The mission of The Keno Foundation is to empower young entrepreneurs in global business.
On this trip, we visited many historical places in South Africa, but I was most impacted by our visit to Pollsmoor Prison. While at the Pollsmoor Prison, the tour guides explained to us how many black Africans were imprisoned there during the time when apartheid in South Africa. Keep in mind that before entering into the continent of Africa, I had no idea what apartheid was. I had no idea that black Africans were being racially segregated.
Before arriving at the prison, we had just visited the apartheid museum, so you can imagine how emotional I already was. In this prison, the inmates were poorly fed, sexually abused, beaten and hygienically unkempt. We toured the grounds of the jail and many of the jail cells. We were told the gruesome and depressing stories of events that took place in the jail.
We were then taken to the isolation zone. I was shocked that someone could survive in such a small room with absolutely no light or sound. As I walked in and out of the room and read the words engraved in the walls, I began to feel the pain that the people held in those isolation rooms must have felt. I walked in and out of each room just amazed and truly grateful for being able to live in a time where it is unjust to be arrested because of the color of your skin.
Before stepping into the next little room, the tour guide stopped me and informed me that the cell I was about to enter was the room that Nelson Mandela was held in. As I stepped in and read the engravings that the man himself carved into the walls, all the emotion from the stories of the jail and the apartheid museum came raining down on me. Knowing that Nelson Mandela remained sane and positive when kept in an isolation zone for mass amounts of time made me change my prospective on life. It made me appreciate little things such as my freedom of speech and the space I have to move around in my house, my room, my school.
Being there inspired me to remain positive about the challenges in my life because if Nelson Mandela could remain positive in a small room with no light or sound, I could remain positive in my preparatory boarding school.
At the end of the tour, there was a hallway full of quotes by Nelson Mandela. Many of them stuck out to me, but there was one that really hit home: “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. I felt fear for myself more times than I can remember, but I hid it behind a mask of boldness. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”
Nelson Mandela not only told people that you can overcome fear, he showed people. Spending 27 years in jail and still enforcing peace. Spending mass amounts of time in an isolation zone, yet still focusing on the future.
Nelson Mandela’s story makes you think about your life. His story is inspiring and remarkable. Nelson Mandela always focused on the positive and how to further bring peace to his country. Nelson Mandela was a conductor of peace and change. He was brave and strategic and accomplished his goals.
He truly was a hero for all ages. Rest in peace Nelson Mandela.