July 18, 2014

Lessons from The Mighty Mandela. ~ Shannon Roszell


It’s coming up on July 18th, which would be Nelson Mandela’s 96th birthday, just seven months after his death.

I am reminded of visiting my local Starbucks in Kitsilano, Vancouver on December 18th, 2013, and opening my Facebook account to discover that Nelson Mandela had just passed away. I was so shocked and saddened by the news that before I could even censor myself and remain a polite Canadian, I had blurted out to the two ladies sharing my table that Mandela had died.

The three of us had engaged in friendly small talk as I invited them to join me at the only free table in the coffee shop. The one woman wore a bright red scarf around her neck and another covering her noticeably bald head. Her skin was pale and she could only eat three bites of her sandwich, all signs pointing to having undergone potent cancer treatments.

The woman’s eyes sparkled with the same compassionate strength and determination that I imagine Nelson Mandela’s to have carried.

The women too were saddened by the day’s news and my red-scarfed beauty suggested we have a moment of silence in Mandela’s honor. Before I could offer my support, she had bravely stood up, asked for everyone’s attention and proposed to the Starbucks community that we have a minute of silence.

Everyone agreed. And we did. And it was beautiful.

Nelson Mandela, the Father of Democracy, lived a long and wildly productive 95 years but not without suffering. As you likely know, he spent 27 of those 95 years in prison in South Africa. But like the lotus flower that begins life on the bottom of a pond floor in mucky deep darkness, Mr. Mandela passed through the darkness and into the light.

So, how are we to pay respect for such a man? How is it possible to honor a man who has sacrificed so much for humanity?

“There is no passion to be found playing small, in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.” ~ Nelson Mandela 

It’s not enough for me to keep just reading this message as it was intended, as a call to action.

“But what action?” I ask myself. Well that depends entirely on each of us. We are each brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous in our own unique way.

Most of our problems lie in the fear of our own beauty.

What this fear looks like in my life is notebooks full of creative ideas, little zygotes of songs captured on my iPhone, and a history of rich conversations with friends. Most remain ideas; for others I’ve gone as far as to get the supplies but have been stopped there.

The most frustrating of all are the projects that remain half finished. I have shelves and shelves of gorgeous greenware, for example, pottery that needs firing and has been lining the basement of my mother’s farmhouse since 2007. In the next room sit three kilns that have never been fired. It’s moments of reflection like this that I become really down on myself.

Lacking vision is one thing, that’s uncontrollable. But what I can control is follow-through. In my heart of hearts I blame my lack of follow-through on my fear of inadequacy, on a lack of respect for my work and upon reflection, if we go a little deeper, a lack of respect for myself.

But Mandela counters that cycle of negative thinking. He draws attention to the underlying light in each of us and gives us permission to be the fullest versions of ourselves. For me that means dedicating at least one (guiltless) hour a day to music and another to writing.

We need to embrace our talents, whatever unique talent that may be and share it with each other so we can all shine brightly.

Start today. Continue tomorrow…and the day after, and each day after that.

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       Apprentice Editor: Brenna Fischer / Editor: Renée Picard

       Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons

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