Today marks the 25th anniversary of Nelson Mandela walking free. I was honored to be invited to share my thoughts on my recent visit to Robben Island with a great website, youshareproject.com where you can read stories from around the world. This is an expansion of my previous post on Ragged Mommy.
During my awesome trip, I took a boat to Robben Island to see Nelson Mandela’s prison cell. What was the most incredible thing to me was that the tour was conducted by a former political prisoner (1984-1989). I wish I had gotten his name. I never did. But he told us how he and four of his friends were kidnapped by security police on a barren road. How they were tortured, physically and mentally. How only four of them made it to Robben Island. The fifth was killed during the torturing process. To talk with this man, hear his story, ask him questions, was the most precious thing to me because what stood out the most was not anger. It wasn’t resentment. It was still joy. It was still hope. He told us how, even when imprisoned, the political prisoners knew that education was the key. Patience, faith, hope, non violent action. These were the tools those prisoners used to get the word out, to build their campaign, to get the world to listen until their voices were loud enough that all political prisoners were set free and apartheid was abolished. I can’t adequately describe the demeanour of this man. His energy was so positive. He was a beacon. Despite all that he had been through, he was still returning to that prison day in and day out, because he was continuing that education to the rest of the world. I’ve always remembered that Nelson Mandela’s prisoner number was 46664 but I never knew why. Originally, it was 466/64 because he was the 466th arrival on Robben Island in 1964. His number then just became 46664. I met more native South Africans and the attitude always seemed to be the same. It was always one of hope, positivity. The current government is not one Mandiba would be proud of, but they still hope for more. For it to get better. Faced with so, so, so much, the people still focus on moving forward, gently, kindly, with education. As I sat talking to a new friend, I felt such peace talking with her and it made me realize how I myself view my own situations, including parenting. How our first-world problems are so utterly trivial that it borderlines disgust. That we, as a nation, stress so much importance on the most minute of things, letting it cause us so much aggravation. Even now that I am back home a couple of weeks, when I start to feel that familiar stress come on, I think back to South Africa, to a land where most of the people conquered the worst of obstacles, and even now, when poverty and crime are peaking, can still be positive. It’s a life lesson to be learned. That I needed to learn to change my parenting, among other things. But what I encountered with regards children specifically, I could never have imagined.