This week Nelson Mandela celebrated his 95th birthday. The world celebrated Mandela Day to honor and recognize his passion against injustice and his achievements in inspiring a fairer and united world. In one of Mandela’s speeches he said, “Like slavery and apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings. Sometimes it falls on a generation to be great. You can be that great generation. Let your greatness blossom.”
I have been thinking a lot about this quote today because it expresses what I have been feeling during my summer in Washington, DC. I have a deep desire to be part of a group, a movement, a generation of great change. However, it is often difficult to let our ‘greatness blossom’ and continue social justice work. Our battles are often long and strenuous and triumphs can be small and quiet. On days when I feel defeated and let down by the injustices in our world, I think about Nelson Mandela and his encouragement and persistence to “let our greatness blossom.”
In the South African President’s inauguration speech he quoted Marianne Williamson and said, “…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.” If poverty and inequality can be eradicated by the actions of human beings, then all we are called to do is be liberated from our own fear and allow our greatness to bloom. We are called to let our light and passion for justice shine so that it might inspire others to do the same. I remain hopeful that one day soon, the entire world will be lit.