Nelson Mandela was buried last weekend and what a life he lived. Imprisoned for 27 years, released and becomes the first Black president of South Africa. His most significant achievement in my book though is that he became a living embodiment of what it means to truly forgive, to turn the other cheek and practice true reconciliation. I don't know about you, but if it were me, I'd be like "uh huh, no forgiveness here. I've left Jesus at home and I am about to go for some serious payback" (probably explains why it wasn't me. Jesus doesn't need anyone else giving Him a bad name!)
On a more serious note though, I followed the commentary and heard all the quotes and I just kept thinking "what about the spaces in between? The life he lived- between the quotes. What was he like as a husband? How did he change through the years? What was he like as a grandad, given the experiences he had. What was he like as a man, when he wasn't in the spotlight? All these questions got me wondering: what does a life of significance look like? How can we know for sure that our life has meaning?
This week's piece is about my answers, but I'd love to hear yours, so please feel free to send in your comments.
My first point is that life is made up of high points, low points and all the points in between. Or in the words of Forrest Gump: "life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you're gonna get". I'm sure I'm not the only one, who sometimes thinks, "enough already with the low points!" But the truth of the matter is that most of us wouldn't be the people we are, if we hadn't had all the experiences we've had. I truly believe that nothing we learn is ever wasted. It could be that one hideous experience you had, that qualifies you to help out someone else in the exact same predicament. Because let's face it, there comes a time when we aren't interested in platitudes anymore. There comes a time when someone tells us they know how we feel, we want to know that they really do! When we act like we've got everything right we imprison ourselves and other people in the myth of the 'perfect' life. On the other hand, when we share our struggles, we set ourselves and others free and the advice we offer is so much better, because it is tempered by our lived experiences.
Secondly, I'd say that some of the most important lives are the ones that are lived in quiet significance. The neighbour who can always be counted on in a crisis; the acquaintance who comes through, when friends don't, the quiet old lady down the street, who turns out to have donated a whole heap of money to her local schools and other charities. When I look back over my life, there are 3 people who have been quietly significant in my life. My english teacher who recognised my passion for reading and helped me to cultivate a lifelong love of reading; a boss who saw my potential and encouraged me to go off and read law and my best sister-friend who constantly teaches me and challenges me to be a better person. When they die they aren't going to get a State funeral like Nelson Mandela, but to me they are special. When you look at your life, who are those people who are quietly significant? What experiences have you had that could help someone who is struggling?
The pomp and pageantry of Nelson Mandela's funeral is over and for the rest of us, life goes on. But it doesn't have to go on in the same way. Nelson Mandela left us with a rich legacy. A legacy that shows us how to live a life of significance, a life of value. We can honour him and keep his legacy alive by living out the lessons he taught us. Because, in the end a life of significance is simply one that is spent, living out our divine purpose. Whether it's lived out publicly or quietly, just make sure it counts.
Until next time, go well.
born2bebeautiful is taking a 2 week break and will be back on the 2 January 2014. Have a restful and peaceful break.