Many pretend greatness, few live it. Nelson Mandela lived it, and lives it. As a human rights advocate there are not many to look up to, to emulate, and for me, Mandela, or Madiba, as he is called by many in South Africa, Madiba being an honorary title adopted by elders of Mandela’s clan, is right their with Ghandi and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and a mere handful of others.

Mandela celebrated his 91st birthday today and seeing him brought tears to my eyes. The man right-sizes me on those days I am feeling wounded or walked on by those who wish I would cease my human rights activities. Who am I to complain? Who am I to moan when this man spent 27 years of his life in prison because he would not flinch in his fight for equal rights for all.

Lest any be foolish enough to believe Mandela is somehow a fearless being, let me enlighten you by giving you some of his words. On fear he said, “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”

For those foolish enough to think the making of money is the true measure of success, he said, “Money won’t create success, the freedom to make it will.” Now I know a couple of folks who read this blog who would nod their heads in agreement like this like bobble-head dolls and not a single word or tone of their phrasing would be remotely linked to honesty, much less integrity.

For those of you who read this blog who give your heart and soul to assuring that all people are given their equal rights in the world, let me give you the gift of Mandela’s words, “There is no easy walk to freedom anywhere, and many of us will have to pass through the valley of the shadow of death again and again before we reach the mountaintop of our desires.”

For those of you are struggle for the rights of others, you are my brothers and sisters. For those of you who do not, who feed of others and use others for you material gain, guess what, you are my brothers and sisters too. May you get healthy and grow in that newfound healthiness for you are the ones who are truly enslaved.

For freedom brings with it some glorious realities, as Mandela said, “…to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”

Happy Birthday, Mr. Mandela. Thank you for keeping me and so many others right-sized, for reminding us that what feels impossible may not be impossible all.

The Freedom of You

I remember songs.

Songs that moved my stride forward, lifted my head up. In the dark days of hunger and homelessness songs kept me warm, fed, loved, gave me air to breathe. Through all my life music carried me through Certain songs in certain times got me to the sunrise and let me rest my head in peace after sunsets drifted to deep blue, then black.

I don’t know what lifts your spirits, but I can tell you they deserve to be lifted. I don’t know what feeds your soul and fills your heart, but your soul deserves feeding and your heart has a right to be full.

Today I saw an old clip of Emerson, Lake and Palmer singing “Lucky Man,” one of those magic songs that wet my eyes and moved my heart. There were many, many others. For years Bob Dylan kept me going and for many years since it has been Bruce Springsteen.

Always Beethoven has mirrored my soul, jazz my mind, Steinbeck, Dickens, Tolstoy and others the thoughts that fill my mind.

Yet, when all is said and done, freedom seems to me to be the clarion call. Freedom for us all. Freedom to be who we are safely in the world we live in, unhindered by the bigotry and hatreds of others. Free of our histories, of the poisonous trappings of stereotypes.

Freedom to be you is what my heart and soul wishes for you.

And so, I can think of no better song then the one I place below. Paste it into your browser and enjoy. Take it with you through your days. Let it lift you, bring a smile to your face, maybe tears of joy and hope to your eyes, and fullness to your heart.

You are here to be you, it is your right to be you in freedom and peace, after all, you can’t have one without the other.

Go ahead now. Give it a listen.