Nelson Mandela taught me a lesson today – RIP

December 5, 2013

This week I found myself simplifying my life. I offered up parts of some childhood collections to friends and family. These items included caps (of which I had collected 280+ over the course of a lifetime), sports cards (numbers too high to count), and Marvel and DC comic books (each of about 400 softcover tomes a story about a hero’s struggles against evil).

This evening a hero whose actions affected an entire planet, died half a world away from me. Nelson Mandela passed away at 95 years of age and I’m crying real tears about his death. I’m trying to make sense of a world in which our values can – and do – span the gap between collecting trinkets and protesting inequality.

“Duh,” you might comment. “How can you compare Mandela’s actions and life to plastic tubs full of stuff?”

I’m not comparing these things. I’m experiencing an epiphany that as humans we actually have the ability to place value on both and maybe lack the capacity to show the extremes of emotion at each end of the spectrum.

To be clear, I used to look at what Mandela stood for and I had trouble wrapping my head around it. This man was so involved in the concept of human rights that he spent an entire life focused on that one cause. Mandela single-handedly brought attention to the plight of a nation and made millions of people more introspective through his words and actions. He cared about people and that was what he lived to do.

HE SPENT HIS LIFE FIGHTING FOR A CAUSE! His life. 95 freaking years!

We live in a world where we can’t go a tenth of a mile without letting go of the wheel and composing a text message on our mobile phones. We live in a time where our pets in America get better treatment than the humans in other areas of the world. We live in a time where some of us might not even understand the fight Mandela was fighting.

Sure, I’m crying because Mandela was a hero. I’m also crying because I was feeling pain and loss about material things like comic books and baseball cards. I’m crying because maybe I’ve wasted a lot of time not doing enough for the rest of the world.

Sometimes simplifying your life isn’t just about throwing out or donating your belongings. Sometimes it’s realizing that a live well-lived…even by one person…can make a difference.

I’m crying in sadness for Nelson Mandela’s death and in happiness that I still have time to try and make a difference. How about you?