Every time I walk into my kitchen I see utatu Mandela. And before you start wondering about me – we have a calendar of his photographs that is the first thing you see as you enter our kitchen. I find it interesting that it’s made in the USA and odd to look at him and see only foreign holidays depicted. But then I guess it’s just confirmation that he is no longer ours alone, but an international figure whose legacy is acknowledged, shared and celebrated universally.
If you’ve been following the media, quite a number of organisations and individuals have been talking about what they are going to do in their 67 minutes on Mandela Day. Maybe you are also planning to do something or wondering what can you do at this late hour?
I read somewhere that the idea of Mandela Day was inspired by him at one of his 90th birthday celebrations when he said: “It is time for new hands to lift the burdens. It is in your hands now.”
My first thought was: Yes utata has, in his lifetime, worked tirelessly and sacrificially to lift the burdens of so many of us. It is our time now to do the same for others. Then I had a moment of panic thinking – this sounds a bit too serious now. Helping to lift burdens made the whole thing sound a bit too heavy for me. I can barely manage my own burdens, and whose hands was he referring to anyway?
And then I remembered another whose legacy and impact on this earth is much greater than even our beloved Madiba’s. He said: “A new command I give you. Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this will all men know you are my disciples.”
Then it dawned on me. let love motivate us – not duty or social pressure or even guilt. Love. Just as we have been loved; let us love others whose burdens are just as heavy, if not more than ours. And as we do this, our loving acts may lead them to the One who invites and welcomes all who are weary and burdened. You see, He promises them (and us) rest for weary and burdened souls.
If you are connected or already have something lined up with the many organisations that have offered opportunities to help lift the burdens of others – great! If not, I have one or two opportunities you may have missed right where you are at.
So, how about… lifting the burden of your employees? The domestic worker, gardener, or office cleaner who quietly empties your dirt bin without you even noticing her presence sometimes? Do you know the burdens they carry?
It could be driving your domestic worker and queuing with her at Home Affairs so that she can at last sort out her identity document quandary? That of course could take much longer than 67 minutes – but hey, who is counting?
It could be taking your gardener’s little girl who still isn’t walking at 2 years of age, to your private doctor (and paying yourself) so that she can get a referral letter to the Red Cross because her parents have had no joy or answers at the local clinic.
How about driving your cleaner home – not to the station or taxi rank but to his or her home? And yes, in that Friday traffic?
And if you have no idea what burdens your staff carry – then know that your first step is to actually care enough to find out and then take action.
You may be protesting thinking, some are doing exciting things like climbing Mount Kilimanjaro to raise funds for charity to mark Mandela Day – and you suggest I take my domestic to Home Affairs? Just maybe for you the long walk to ‘freedom’ needs to begin with you crossing the divide in your kitchen or workplace with your employee/s.
There are of course also wonderful opportunities to serve through the many projects Common Good is running. Remember though, it is about extending the love you have been given. It’s about helping to lift the burdens of others. It’s not about you or what is most convenient and expedient.
The calendar in my kitchen has a Mandela quote for each month and July reads: “Hope is a powerful weapon and [one] no one power on earth can deprive you of.”
Madiba would know.
Locked up on Robben Island for his fight against all forms of injustice, the government thought that surely he would be crushed or forgotten. They underestimated the power of hope. It is that hope that carried Madiba and his comrades through those difficult and sometimes bleak years. And I think we underestimate that power at times.
‘Do I have hope or am I just a fool? Have you ever asked yourself that question? I did earlier this evening as I reflected on the many things I’ve prayed about which have not yet happened. Then I saw Mandela’s quote and remembered that hope never disappoints. It is powerful.
The organisation that I have been working for over 7 years Phambili nge Themba – which means ‘Going forward with Hope.”‘Go forward with Hope’ – in whatever you will be doing and no matter how dire the situation looks. Then stand firm in your faith for you know that with God nothing is impossible.
And as one faithful, passionate and committed servant was inspired to write long ago: “And now these three things remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is LOVE.” May we also follow his example just as he followed the example of One who lifts our burdens…