Tuesday, March 31, 2009

"Look inside you and be strong..."

"There's a hero if you look inside your heart
You don't have to be afraid of what you are.
There's an answer if you reach into your soul
and the sorrow that you know will melt away

And then a hero comes along
with the strength to carry on
and you cast your fears aside
and you know you can survive.

So, when you feel like hope is gone
look inside you and be strong
and you'll finally see the truth
that a hero lies in you..."

- Mariah Carey
"A Hero Lies in You"

His given name, Rolihlahla, meant "troublemaker", but who would have guessed that this boy whose father died when young Rolihlahla was nine years old, would go on to become a "Hero," not only to his tribesmen, but to  millions of fellow Africans, world leaders, the poor, oppressed and imprisoned...and to one young mother 10,000 miles away...among countless others.

Rolihlahla, re-named Nelson as a child by his teacher, would later quote, in his Inaugural address this passage from Marianne Williamson's "A Return to Love":

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."

This could be a long story about my journey to South Africa, finding my way through the labyrinth of apartheid-based sanctions, bureaucracy, and red-tape...while adopting our daughter...and finally emerging, having somehow fallen in love with a country gripped in sadness, civil war, and fear...but I will leave that for previous and future posts.

This is a tribute to a man who was once a boy called "troublemaker." A man whose dignity in the face of humiliation, courage in the midst of danger, and love in spite of hatred, changed the world we live in and gave us another hero to refer our children to when encouraging them to "play big".  I often wonder who inspired those have continued, through their humble persistent humanity, to inspire millions.

The following "backstory," by journalist Faye Bowers,  appeared in last week's Christian Science Monitor:

Running Into Mandela at the Monitor: On June 24, 1990, I emerged from the underground parking garage at the Christian Science Center in Boston to find three tall black men circling the reflecting pool. I stood completely still. As he saw me recognize him, Nelson Mandela broke into the most gracious smile and waved at me. He was on his first, historic trip to America. The day before, hundreds of thousands of people had turned out to see him on the Esplanade, along the Charles River, to celebrate his recent release from a South African prison. Now he said he wanted to see the place where that famous lady (Mary Baker Eddy) started her own religion as well as newspaper.

"Wait right here," I said, too loudly. "I'm going to get the editor of the Monitor. He needs to meet you." I sprinted to the newsroom and told Dick Cattani to come downstairs, come meet Mandela. He insisted on putting on a jacket. It was Sunday, and he was dressed casually. I pulled him by the arm as he slipped into his blue and white pinstriped seersucker jacket. He gave Mandela a tour of The Mother Church, as well as a copy of "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" (by Eddy), which Mandela insisted he sign. He mentioned during the visit that the Monitor was the only international paper he had been allowed to read in prison, although major parts were redacted. He marveled that a woman not only started this paper but this religion, noting it could only happen in the US.
-     Faye Bowers

  I remember hearing this story related by Dick Cattani,  just after it happened.  I rejoiced in the role Mary Baker Eddy's vision for international journalism that "injures no man, but blesses all mankind" would play in the life of my hero.  I was moved that he would seek out her "homeland".

In actuality, it was her paper that led me to South Africa 21 years ago...it is her paper that continues to remind me that we are not alone in lighting our one candle and cursing the darkness.

In referring to Mandela's extraordinary courage, my friend Susan Dane writes in her compelling, "When All Systems Fail":

"A man is imprisoned in South Africa for the color of his skin and for his attempts to bring racial equality to his country.  His is seen as a threat by one side of the political debate, and as a liberator by the other side.  While the two sides come to blows, burning and killing each other in mutual hatred, the man dedicates twenty-seven years of his life to not being what everything in him and outside him are encouraging him to be.  He chooses instead to undertake the journey of unreasonable freedom.  He dedicates all his time and energy to getting rid of (in his own words) 'the poison of hatred in my own bloodstream.'

This is a big task since he lives with and within the narrow concrete walls that hatred itself has constructed for him.  Everywhere he turns he is reminded of the power of oppression, and the power of evil to triumph over good.

Did he make the hatred?  Did he deserve it?  Did his bad Karma destine him to a life of suffering, to spend what could have been a full and happy life hopelessly condemned instead?

This man was smart.  He chose to focus on different concerns:

He worked to see that he was not his circumstances, and he worked to
not react to them.

He fought to not become entangled by questions like "why" and "why me?"

He fought instead to make sure that no matter what happened
around him, it could not happen to him.

And he refused to buy into the propaganda that he could change,
if only something else or someone else would change first."

As we strive to live heroic lives in small ways, what can we learn from this man's decision about where he chose to align his focus.  How can we make choices that will inspire others to dream big and live lives of courage and grace.

Could being a hero in one's own life...and the lives of those we love...be as simple as the next choice?

Dane goes on to say:

"Here was a man who was not allowed to read a newspaper for sixteen years, who was not allowed to have a family member visit, and who did hard labor during that time. And yet in spite of this oppressive environment, he dedicated himself to being king in the one place where he could still be king, the one place no oppression could reach him...in the desires of his heart and the intention of his will.  And to do this he had to not be what everything in him and around him argued he must be - a victim...

The result was that this man could not be hurt.  Could not be bent.  Could not be pushed or broken.  Not in any real sense.  Because the Chooser in him was inviolable.  The Chooser in him, the king and kingdom of his self, was Truth [God or Spirit] having its way...His circumstances could not define him, because he had decided to define himself instead.  An entire oppressive government could not bend him to its will.  In fact, the oppressive government succumbed to him."

This is just one very powerful example of how our seemingly small, moment-by-moment choices can become the substance of heroism and nobility, and leadership.

"It's a long road when you face the world alone;
No one reaches out a hand for you to hold.
You can find love if you search within your self
and the emptiness you felt will disappear.

And then a hero comes along
with the strength to carry on
and you cast your fears aside
and you know you can survive.

So, when you feel like hope is gone
look inside you and be strong
and you'll finally see the truth
that a hero lies in you
that a hero lies in ... you
that a hero lies in.....you."

It all starts with small choices...or as Mother Teresa would one day say:

"We can do no great things, only small things with great love."

There is greatness in each small thing...each small choice...made with great love.  What choices will you make today...and in doing so, what will you discover about your own potential for greatness?   A hero lies in each of us...a hero lies in...you.

With Love,

Kate Robertson, CS

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous3:19 PM

    For a time, I was part of the tiny unheralded contingent that edited the daily CSM down into the weekly international edition. We were so SO proud when we figured out it was our work he'd been reading. Thanks for this reminder. cdc