Saturday

Nelson Mandela




Some years ago I carried a small sign with a small group of people marching in front of a big bank on a busy street in a southern city demanding that apartheid in South Africa be brought to an end.   I remember feeling pretty good that day.  I remember thinking there was the possibility that our small signs could add up and become something useful to someone like Mandela.

My favorite story from the years that came after is this one:  Apartheid ended. Mandela became president of his country.  World leaders came calling, the room was filling, then filled.  As one important person after another was introduced to one important person after another so too was the woman who served tea.

When I read that story I could suddenly remember the feel of the warm splintery wood attached to the small sign that buffeted about ever so slightly in the wind.  I could remember the smell of fumes from the buses and cars that passed on the busy street and a sense of their mostly indifferent occupants.  I remembered being glad for having enough sense to wear comfortable shoes.  I remembered not feeling especially righteous that day but hoping I was among people who were.  A hope realized years later by in a simple act by a gentle man.

Nelson Mandela.