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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Man in Cell Number Seven

A while back, my oldest daughter and I saw the Clint Eastwood movie, INVICTUS. It told the inspiring story of the South Africa’s World Cup champion Rugby team, which played a role in the healing of a new nation.

Nelson Mandela was the visionary behind the reconciliation of South Africa. The title, INVICTUS, is a reference to the poem Mandela recited to himself to help him endure the horrors of prison.

Mandela was convicted in 1964 of plotting against the government. When his mother died in 1968, the government would not let him attend her funeral. In 1969, the government refused to let him attend the funeral of his oldest son, who died in a car accident.

Mandela spent 18 years in a prison cell that was seven feet by nine feet. His diet consisted of corn porridge and a drink made of brackish water, yeast, and sugar. Each day he would work breaking rocks at a limestone quarry.

While in jail, Mandela refused to adorn the walls in his cell. He did not ever want it to feel like home. Each day, he would do exercises in his cell anticipating the day he would be free. For 26 years he did those exercises.

As you might imagine, there were days when even he was down. Still, he survived and in 1990 he was released. In 1994, he was elected president of South Africa.

When I think of all Nelson Mandela experienced, I find it staggering he could be a man of forgiveness, racial healing, and racial reconciliation. Proof positive, yet again, that what is done to a man, does not have to come out of man.

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