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January 15, 2014

Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s first black president, Nobel Prize winner has died. He was 95. He has inspired many. History shall remember him as one of the greatest men who ever lived. If you haven’t read or heard or watched a movie about Nelson Mandela, you should consider doing so.

During his lifetime his words of wisdom are etched in history. Here are a few quotes that I found amazing. But when you read them, think not so much of Mandela as of yourself and your friends and family. Who do you know lives by these same words?

“I am fundamentally an optimist. Whether that comes from nature or nurture, I cannot say. Part of being optimistic is keeping one’s head pointed toward the sun, one’s feet moving forward. There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair. That way lays defeat and death.”

My friend Dorothy Countryman fits these words. She has fought the battle of dementia with her beloved husband, our Doc Countryman. She lost Doc, but she has continued her work helping others cope. And she just helps all the time. She misses Doc so much sometimes, but she does not dwell on that, she gives thanks for the time she had him and then just rolls up her sleeves and gets to work. Nelson Mandela would have loved Dorothy.

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”

For every person who has recently stepped out of those comfortable places and done something good and right, I think Nelson Mandela would be proud of you.

“It always seems impossible until it’s done.” Wow, the face that comes up in my mind is Craig Latham. He and his people have accomplished such amazing feats, but none of them are more than what Craig has done as an individual. And he is so humble, simply wanting to get the next accomplishment finished with little fanfare. As the OPSU Rodeo Coach, they have reached the pinnacle. And will again because they work so hard and have such a fine leader guiding them. Craig is the first to say that he hasn’t done it alone, and I don’t suppose he usually has. But he would if he had to. His work ethic inspires us to do what is expected of us by Craig. And he’s always so polite too.

“When a man has done what he considers to be his duty to his people and his country, eh can rest in peace.”

Last week when I had lunch at the Heritage Community, there sat J.C. Lewis at the other table. Back in the 90s I did a feature story about J.C. Lewis and his time serving in the military. His story and his demeanor so impressed me that it was a step back moment when I saw him again. More than 20 years and I am still impressed. You know someone who has served their country and people well, don’t you? If you don’t, you need to get some new friends.

“Real leaders must be ready to sacrifice all for the freedom of their people.” What have you sacrificed recently for others? And I don’t mean giving your cupcake to the dog. What have we given freely, no strings attached, no judgment with it, and handed it with a smile on our face? Might need to work on that. I know I do.

As the Irish say in one blessing, “May the good earth be soft under you when you rest upon it, and may it rest easy over you when, at the last, you lay out under it, and may it rest so lightly over you that your soul may be out from under it quickly, and up, and off, and be on its way to God.”

See you on the bricks!