Sunday, July 17, 2011

Celebrating Mandela Day - July 18

We traveled to South Africa for the first time in July of 2007.  In preparing for the trip I read a lot about Nelson Mandela, one of the world's greatest and most inspirational leaders.  He gave 67 years of his life in the struggle for justice.

"We can change the world and make of it a better place. It is in your hands to make a difference." ~ Nelson Mandela

Mandela is celebrated globally each year on July 18th in hopes to inspire others to embrace the values that he shared: freedom, equality, reconciliation, respect and peace.  It is a call to action for people everywhere to take responsibility for making the world a better place, one step at a time.

In his honor I  thought I would share his favorite poem:

Invictus by William Ernest Henley
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

What I learned on a 4 hour plane ride.

Flight delayed... Walked around airport (my Day 571 of walking). Finally in my seat. For some reason I thought flying from Houston to Boston was much shorter. Wishful thinking? At least I scored an aisle seat! The very well-dressed elderly woman sitting in the middle seat was eyeing me. Oh no I thought. I just know she wants to talk. Shall I close my eyes and pretend to sleep? Pick up something to read? I need to be focused on the four days ahead and meeting the group for our Walking Weekend in Boston. 

Too late. She smiled at me, I smiled back...and that was the beginning of a wonderful, interesting and very short 4 hours... 

After a bit of introductory chit chat, my seat mate says to me "My darling we only have this moment." Just a simple statement, but for some reason it resonated. Turns out my 88 year old friend, Helen Colin is a Holocaust survivor. She was imprisoned at age 16 and released on her 21st birthday. Since then it has been her mission to speak out about the effects of what she calls “unchecked hate and intolerance.”

"There is no way we can go on and sit silent and allow any prejudice to carry on,” she said. “We must be extremely, extremely vigilant. I learned to have a heart, compassion, respect and love. There is so much in all of us to give, and by giving, you will always receive 10 times more in return. You have to give respect to get respect.”

The time flew as we shared philosophies. We bonded...

I told Helen that I traveled for a living, but it was more than just taking people on vacation. I expressed to her that my vision of crossing borders and connecting face-to-face has always been to reinforce my belief in our shared humanity. When you are invited in to someone's home for a cup of yak butter tea in the mountains of Shangri-la, or singing songs with the children at a primitive school on the banks of the Amazon River, we open our hearts to the fullness of life. Sharing in daily lives of the people we meet as we walk the world creates an understanding, and in some ways that understanding promotes tolerance.

The plane landed. We hugged good bye.

Though I doubt our paths will ever cross again, I know it is a forever friendship.  Each day when I go for my walk, my kind and wise friend with the twinkle in her eye always comes to mind.  I can almost hear her reminding me,
"After all my darling, we only have this moment." 

                                                                       photo credit: Ena Nielsen