Les­son in for­give­ness and hu­mil­ity

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - INBOX - John Sa­muel Cheras, Kuala Lumpur

of tor­ture, the wounds of hu­mil­i­a­tion, the sores of op­pres­sion lay buried now un­der a new foun­da­tion of peace and pride.

But, al­low me to have my say in my claim to fame with Man­dela.

In that pic­ture on my man­tel­piece sits a young man on a couch in a ho­tel in Malaysia, shak­ing hands with Nel­son Man­dela. Just two peo­ple in the room. (Save for the pho­tog­ra­pher, of course.)

The date was Aug 25, 2000. I was the envy of many. But, there it was, cap­tured for pos­ter­ity through the lens of a cheap Nikon cam­era. The story, how­ever, does not end there.

I was fur­ther given the hon­our of ac­com­pa­ny­ing the South African leader to meet with Tun Dr Ma­hathir Mohamad in his Pu­tra­jaya of­fice.

For 30 min­utes this “boy” sat next to the “Man” in a black Per­dana limou­sine. I had to look smart, I had to speak in­tel­li­gently, and I had to lis­ten care­fully to what he said. He was a gift to mankind.

A trea­sure not owned by any one coun­try, revered by all, friends and en­e­mies alike, a tow­er­ing fig­ure. A man who gave his life for a cause many felt was lost in the tirade of pol­i­tics, ego­ism and ha­tred. I had to hear him speak. I had to bring back some­thing with me – a word, a sen­tence, a line – which I could pass on to my chil­dren.

I asked him about for­give­ness. How he could have the courage, the heart, the soul to say “I for­give” to the tor­men­tors, the ag­gres­sors, the hate preach­ers, the liars, the mur­der­ers. His an­swer was sim­ple. If I don’t start, then who will?

We con­tin­ued to talk about the truth com­mis­sion, about his life on Robben Is­land and the hope­ful con­clu­sion of this Com­mis­sion. He spoke slowly, clearly, elo­quently and be­yond any doubt, with great love, and the spirit of for­give­ness and wis­dom, ad­dress­ing me as “son” and look­ing at me straight in the eye all the time. Age some­how did not seem to be a bar­rier.

As we got closer to our desti­na­tion, he asked me a ques­tion, which I still and al­ways will re­mem­ber: “Son, can you please tie my shoelace, as I find it dif­fi­cult to bend.”

So, there I was, ty­ing the shoelaces of Madiba. I tell this story to any­one who cares to lis­ten. My chil­dren have heard it so of­ten, they can re­cite it by heart. But it is a story worth telling, don’t you think? Af­ter all, how many peo­ple can say that they once talked with, lis­tened to and tied the shoelaces of the late, great Nel­son Man­dela?

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