As I soaked in the news of Nelson Mandela’s passing last night, I was reminded of my visit to Johannesburg in September. While every minute of my visit to that beautiful country was memorable, there is one experience that I will never forget – my visit to Nelson Mandela’s home on Vilakazi Street, Orlando West in Soweto.
The home, now the Nelson Mandela National Museum, also referred to as Mandela House, is a single-story red-brick matchbox which was built in 1945. Filled with some of Mr. Mandela’s original furnishings, including his bed and arm chair, as well as photographs and memorabilia, including a world championship belt which was presented to him by the famous boxer Sugar Ray Leonard, the house still has bullet holes in the walls and scorch marks in its facade from attacks with Molotov cocktails during the days of apartheid. As the tour-guide provided details of Mr. Mandela’s life, and I walked through each room of the home, I believed even more firmly that greatness has little to do with where you were born, cultural background, or socio-economic status. It has to do with the impact that you have on the lives of others.
So, how do we measure that impact? By the number of persons who are living a better life today, because of your decisions and actions. In Mr. Mandela’s words: “A fundamental concern for others in our individual and community lives would go a long way in making the world the better place we so passionately dreamt of.”
How many more people feel better about themselves today, because of your encouraging words? How many more fathers earn increased salaries, and therefore can provide better homes for their children, because you created more jobs? How many more women have access to opportunities for economic empowerment? How many more kids enjoy better facilities at school, technology, and committed teachers? That’s how we measure impact.
Because of Nelson Mandela, millions of people today feel compelled to do something to make life better for individuals, families and communities around the world. Imagine what would happen if we truly embrace Mandela’s life as a sort of launching pad for bringing out the greatness in every, single person around the world. The impact would be immeasurable and the world would be a much better place.
Thank you, Nelson Mandela, for reminding us that we all have the spark of greatness within us, and by following your footsteps of perseverance, courage and forgiveness, we can make the world a more peaceful, secure, and prosperous place. As Rosabeth Moss Kanter stated in her blog – It’s Time to Find Our Inner Mandela.