Walking to freedom

September 2013, Warren Matthews

Summary

I have long admired Nelson Mandela - it would be hard to find a more inspirational leader and a more humble man. His story of triumph over hardship, of long years in prison, then leadership of a government that dismantled apartheid, is unparalleled.

His life speaks to me of commitment, humanity, vision and forgiveness. His words are inspirational and encompass truth for each one of us on our journey.

Nelson Mandela was admitted to hospital in June with a serious lung infection - a consequence of his contracting TB while in prison. He has just been discharged from hospital. He will continue to receive intensive care treatment at home. In South Africa and around the world, his many admirers wish all the best for 95-year old 'Madeba' and his family.

If you know the 'Mandela story' you cannot help but have a deep admiration for the man - it would be hard to find a more inspirational leader and a more humble man. His story of triumph over hardship, of long years in prison, then leadership of a government that dismantled apartheid, is unparalleled. His life is one of commitment, humanity, vision and forgiveness. His words are inspirational and encompass truth for each one of us on our journey.

This is typical of one of his many profound quotes:

"I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can only rest for a moment, for with freedom comes responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not ended."

Imagine Mandela taking "a moment here to rest" - looking around and reflecting on how far he had come. Maybe you are walking your own long road to freedom? Maybe your life is busy and filled with demands? Maybe there are things in your life you are beginning to change? Whatever is happening for you, don't forget to stop and look back every now and then.

But, when you do stop and look back and reflect never do it with regret even when reflecting on mistakes. After all a mistake is only a mistake if you don't learn something from it...accept them, learn and move on. They are all part of life's journey.

Nelson Mandela is now 95 years old. It's easy to forget that he wasn't released from prison until he was 71 (Maybe you saw that unforgettable moment shown on TV when he walked away free!). He became the first black President of South Africa four years later and led the country for five years. By that stage he was 80.

Did Mandela's years in prison prepare him for serving his country through these years? I am sure they did! Would he have chosen to be prepared like this? I doubt it. Who would want that? The circumstances of our lives shape us - whether we like it or not, and build character and resilience in us. Let Mandela be an example of not only what we as individuals can achieve but also that age does not have to be a barrier as to what can be accomplished. If you are 70+ or older it is never too late to go after your dreams... Mandela is proof of this.

Remember the song 'life begins at 40'? I personally don't agree...I think that it begins at 60. By then you have had a bit of life experience that you can put into practice and still look forward to several more productive decades...providing that you take care of your health and a maintain a positive attitude!

I remember meeting another 'icon', Jack LaLane a few years ago who was 92 years of age at the time. He was considered to be the pioneer of the health movement and played a big part in raising the awareness and the importance of the roles that lifestyle, nutrition, attitude, exercise and supplementation played in one's health and well-being. At that time he had better health, agility and energy than many 50 year olds.

So not only should we admire people such as Mandela, LaLane and many others, we should use them as an inspiration to accept that as we get older we do not have to become unhealthy or unproductive. What we become is driven by our own choices and attitudes...and of course having positive goals that will benefit not only our own lives but those around us as well.

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