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About Nelson Mandela Day - 67 minutes

Updated on November 25, 2012
Nelson Mandela with Bill Clinton
Nelson Mandela with Bill Clinton | Source

The People of Nelson Mandela

Do I give that unshaven, smelly person some small change or should I rather just speed up as I walk past them? And then, if I do give them some money, are they going to spend it on alcohol... or will they buy some food and a razor?

Whether we like to admit it or not, most of us who have given any money to the needy have had these rather uncharitable thoughts. Depending on whether the guilt hits you now or later, you will either quickly assuage it by handing over some of your hard-earned cash to the man who does nothing all day, or you will hurry past him and feel bad about it a few steps further on.

At some point in time, you will be sitting around a dinner table with some of your gainfully employed friends and somebody will comment about the increase in these lazy, unkempt beggars at an intersection down the road. It should not be too much later that the question is posed: Why should I give my money, for which I work 12-hour days, to somebody who lies on a park bench most of the day catching rays of sunshine? Somebody who apparently makes no effort whatsoever to improve his lot in life or find a job?

Many readers will be feeling a bit uncomfortable at this time, but push on - it's not all unpleasant introspective.

Mandela's Birthday

On 18 July 2012 is Nelson Mandela's 94th birthday. We celebrate the birthday of one of the most respected and selfless leaders of the modern era by simply giving 67 minutes of our time to doing something good. As a matter of interest, the 67 minutes comes from the fact that Nelson Mandela gave 67 years of his life fighting for social justice and the rights of humanity.

This is an admirable cause but frankly, an easy way out - much like handing over some pocket change to the scruffy fellow I wrote about above. Most people are only too happy to give a few minutes once a year. What a glorious solution for us all to feel great about ourselves and do precisely nothing for the less fortunate for the next few months.

After spending many hours thinking about what to do in order to secure maximum personal credit and exposure for my noble sacrifice, I have decided to join a project that paints classrooms at a nearby school for under privileged children. On Monday when I encounter the street people, I can march straight past them without even the slightest twinge of guilt. Happy birthday Mr Mandela!

We can all appreciate how ridiculous this proposition is. Equally, the stark reality is that nobody enjoys being dictated to give X dollars to charity or spend X hours each week with the under-privileged. I have a proposal for readers to consider in addition to whatever you already contribute. A year from now, you will barely realize that you have spent any time on it, but you will have added an immeasurable contribution to people around you.

The proposal is to educate wherever and whenever you come across a willing, youthful mind. I specifically mention a young mind as opposed to a young person, as demonstrated by the venerable Mr Mandela. Education should not be the limited domain of children but it should be available to any open, young mind.

My mother always smiles as she recalls that I was an incredibly curious child, always asking Why? And writing this, I smile when I remember that my parents either had an answer or encouraged me to find one in a book. To this day, my curiosity is almost boundless and I appreciate the gift anybody gives in sharing their experience and knowledge.

Numerous opportunities to educate ourselves or others present themselves on a daily basis in work and leisure. In our working lives, we can explain to our boss, staff or colleagues why we believe something should best be done in a particular manner. In our personal lives, we can share our cultural peculiarities with others to help foster mutual respect.

So with Mandela day fast approaching, I take the liberty of quoting from that organization's official website: Make every day a Mandela day.

Give your 67 minutes or pocket-change whenever you can, but with the best will in the world, very few of us are able to spend 67 minutes every day assisting charitable causes or constantly donating to the under-privileged. However, we can all constantly share our knowledge with those who embrace it and our experience with those who seek it.

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