There is nothing I can say about Nelson Mandela that has not already been said. However, I believe that we can and must preserve his legacy by emulating him. In a country that was defined by racial segregation, Mandela demanded respect for people regardless of race, position or wealth. We can do the same. Right here. In our hometowns.
I like to think of myself as someone who believes in humanity. I wrote in the Serenity Home Care manifesto, “It demands respect for people regardless of physical or mental frailty.” And yet I find myself disrespecting people without knowing them just because “they’re not like us”.
I live and work near downtown Victoria. I frequently walk past the little park at the bottom of Yates Street where unemployed youth spend their afternoons sitting on the grass, telling stories where every other word begins with “F”, drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana. It is so much easier to dismiss them as freeloaders than it is to see them as people who deserve respect, because respecting them would require that I take the time to understand them. Or the obese women sleeping in a doorway under a dirty blanket. And the unwashed man with the tangled beard that asks me for spare change.
Are they so different from the people I had in mind when I wrote our company manifesto?
I can do better. I owe it to Nelson Mandela to do better.