December 2013 was a month that was full of all kinds of emotional responses to the passing on of an African hero, the caliber of which we do not know if ever we will see in our life time. Madiba was a man that Africa and the world aspired to have as its leader. We all watched how world leaders changed their schedules to ensure they were a part of his commemoration. I listened to a number of news commentators with deep interest. I watched how many replaced their Facebook profile pictures with Madiba’s. I saw how others posted pictures they had taken with Madiba. Others posted pictures of their visit to Robin Island. Others commented on his accomplishments. In all this was a portrayal of how many wanted to be identified with such a man. What a testimony and what a legacy. I also observed the despair that was displayed by many who felt the passing on of Madiba was the end of the non-racial democracy possibly and accountability as he was seen as the conscience of many. He remained as a conscience that allowed many to stay on the straight and narrow and one wonders what will happen now. Now that all the noise is over, it is now our time to ponder as we enter into 2014. As he may have influenced the world, some will influence their countries, others their cities, others their communities, whilst others will influence their schools or work places. Whatever the case might be, influence we must hopefully and prayerfully positively and not negatively.
I for one looked at his passing on as a challenge to also pave my path as he did his. Coincidentally he passed on the 5th the day just before my birthday. My birthdays are usually days I set aside to make an assessment of how I have lived my life in the year that has past. They are days I normally take stock and see if I am still lined up with God’s purpose in my life. Whilst many think I should be going out partying and celebrating, I prefer this day to be somber, quiet and reflective. Whilst many were prompted to feel so sorry that my birthday was overshadowed and would fall around the time the world was mourning the death of a hero, I took it quite differently as I was totally inspired. This coincidence was more of a learning opportunity, a day to reflect on how one can imitate such a leader, what aspects of his leadership qualities one can emulate. It was a day to reflect on the sacrifices he made and the question has to be asked if one is willing to make similar sacrifices. It was a day to ponder on the fact that for every success there is a price to pay. Whilst many were celebrating his success, few even remembered the sacrifices he made in his life to get to where the world would even know of his existence. This made me ponder of the many lonely days and nights he remained resolute on the cause he was willing to die for. The 27 years he was away from his family and deprived to see his own children grow and yet that never deterred him from staying the course. Whilst everyone was celebrating his success I could not help but reflect on how even though he was confined to living in a 8 x 7 feet jail cell for 27 years, was only allowed to see a visitor a year for 30 minutes, could write and receive one letter every six months, slept on the floor, used a bucket for a toilet, that did not deter him from staying the course with his vision and purpose. He became the master of his own prison and emerged from it the mature leader who would fight and win the great political battles that would create the new democratic South Africa. That is what makes Madiba the man that became revered by the world. He paved his own path. He did not look at the obstacles facing him and use them as an excuse to do nothing. He pressed against all odds. He did not hold on to his life, but was willing to let it go for the sake of the freedom of many. He remained resolute in an impossible situation. After gaining freedom, and having been granted the power and the right to make sure his enemies paid for the affliction caused on him and his people, he chose to walk in forgiveness and reconciliation. That is just profound. As I walked through Robin Island during my visit in 2012, these are the thoughts that engulfed my mind. How did this man remain focused during his incarceration? I believe there are many days and years he never thought he could see freedom in his lifetime and yet he was willing to pay the price if it meant future generations would experience this freedom due to the sacrifices he made.
We must also not forget that Madiba was surrounded by men and women who had the same purpose as he did. These men with a single mind spoke the same language, languished together, fought against a system with one voice. I believe this is what made it possible for Madiba to stay the course. He was surrounded by men and women who encouraged him whilst he did the same. They did not focus on his faults, but focused on his strengths. A leader cannot be an effective leader if he or she is not surrounded by people who have the same vision as he/she has. A leader is only as strong as those that rally behind him/her. We should not forget the likes of Walter Sisulu and many others who also made similar sacrifices. We should not forget many others whose names we will never know who made similar sacrifices, without whose support we would not have celebrated the life of such a leader. If we want strong leaders in our community, we must make a choice to offer the same support as Madiba received from his own people.
Whilst others prefer to remain with grave clothes, I believe it is time for us to make a choice to pave our own path as Madiba did. It is time for us not to be deterred by the obstacles that face us. It is time for us to choose to pay a price in order to change our destiny and that of our future generations. It is time for us to search deep within to find our purpose and pursue it with immense resolution. It is in pursuing this purpose that one can go to their grave knowing fully well they have accomplished what they were created to accomplish. I truly believe that Madiba did not go to his grave with any regrets. Let us search ourselves to see if we are pursuing any agenda that will lead us to go to our graves with regrets. Do we face each day with a purpose or are we sidetracked by the distractions that come our way? Do we spend our days engulfed by those things that provide temporary and instant gratification? Are we investing our time on those things that yield short-term returns or no returns at all? Do we take the time to measure our accomplishments? I believe a true leader is one who maintains a certain level of discipline that dispels distractions. Whilst we may want to live in the shadow of such a man, a man or woman must be determined to pave their own path. A path that is given by God for each and every one of us where created for a purpose. It behooves all to find out what that purpose is and pursue it.
Madiba’s passing on has only strengthened my determination to go to my grave with a pure conscience to have done that which God placed me on this earth to do. We are only given one life to live. Let us live it without regrets. In whatever sphere of influence you have been given, no matter how big or small, please make a resolution that you will make a positive influence in 2014. Make a resolution you will change the quality of another’s life for the better. Make a resolution you will change the course of events. Some of you have the ability to change the course of governments, corporations, churches, societies, etc. etc. Please do it for the Glory of God who made us for such a time as this. He has given us an opportunity to see 2014, and let us live it for the purpose we were created.