Nelson Mandela wanted to be remembered as someone who “did his duty on earth”. This means that he felt he had a responsibility towards earth. What an incredible standpoint from which to run your life. How many of us can say that such a worthy sentiment strikes us at all, let alone becomes the guiding principle of how we conduct ourselves throughout our life?
It’s not that I never feel responsible. I do. I’m sure we all feel it in a variety of ways.
I feel great responsibility for the well-being and happiness of my children, of all my family. If I can do anything to positively affect my friends I will gladly do so. I feel responsible towards my employees – to ensure that they have a decent workplace and livelihood. I want my clients to have the great holiday experience that my company has planned for them – it needs to be right. I strive hard to give business to people who own lodges and services which I know deserve to be backed – particularly ones which themselves are backing local conservation or social development. I am disappointed when my company cannot help them as much as I would like. And I feel responsible for the charity of which I am a trustee, The Tribes Foundation. I try to ensure we help as many people as we can the small pot of money our charity is given.
It’s probably a similar story for you. We all tend to feel a duty and responsibility towards those in our close spheres of reference – family, friends, colleagues, clients, and those reliant on us in some way.
Nelson Mandela took this notion much, much further. He felt a duty towards a whole country, towards millions of people. And this began well and truly before he was president. For a president, the whole country IS his/her sphere of reference, so duty towards that country is to be expected, or at least hoped for. Mandela’s feeling of responsibility flourished whilst he was a prisoner. His physical confines did not confine his vision, his humanity, his wisdom … his heart.
To lose such a man is a very sad moment. The world grieves with his family and his country.
However, that a man with such goodness and such an ability to bring out the goodness in others existed at all is a source of great happiness.
Nelson Mandela gave himself the onerous duty of reconciliation and peace in his own country, and this affected the whole world. His is a story of inspiration and hope.
Yes, Mr Mandela, you did indeed do your duty on earth.
Rest in peace.