As I sit writing this, the world is mourning the loss of an amazing leader. Nelson Mandela’s message of forgiveness, rather than revenge, saved a divided nation from a bitter civil war. His leadership and intelligence helped birth a new country. But his humble spirit kept him from taking all the credit. After one term as president, he stepped down because he felt it was time for someone else to lead rather than taking the spotlight for himself. What he did, what he said, who he was, touched the lives of many all over the world.
As often happens when I read and hear about great men and women, I found myself reflecting on the fact that I will never have the scope of influence of a Nelson Mandela. But what I do have is the power to touch the life of the people I come in contact in my little corner of the world. I can choose to do small acts of kindness for both those I know personally and those I don’t. I can smile at the clerk behind the counter and tell her what a great job she is doing rather than complain about long lines and high prices this holiday season. I can let someone go first as I exit the parking lot of a crowded mall. I can pay for the coffee of the person in line behind me at Starbucks. Nothing big or earth shattering. Just a simple act that helps make someone else’s day a little brighter.
One of the other things I’ve thought about this week is that Nelson Mandela did not become Nelson Mandela on his own. He had parents and teachers, and friends, and other leaders who taught him, encouraged him, and stood beside him. Each of those people had someone who taught them, encouraged them, and stood beside them. In other words, behind Nelson Mandela is a long line of individuals who took the time to pass on a little bit of themselves to help someone else, who in turn helped someone else, who in turn helped Mandela become who he was. If at any point that long line of mentoring had been broken, would the outcome in South African have been the same?
When I was a Children’s Director I use to say that I would never be a Billy Graham. But who knew? Maybe the next major world evangelist was sitting in one of my classes every Sunday, learning the basics from one my remarkable teachers. It was a constant reminder to me that you never know how what you say or do will impact someone else.
Giving to the local food bank may enable a budding leader to have breakfast each morning, which will make it easier for him or her to concentrate on their studies, which will allow them to get better grades and open new doors for them as they grow older. Buying a book for a child who has none can open up the wonderful world of reading to an underprivileged child. The possibilities are endless.
As we enter into the hectic holiday season I want to ask you this: What can you do in the next three weeks that will touch the life of someone in a meaningful way? I’m not talking about finding the perfect gift or trying to give your family a perfect Christmas. I’m talking about using your unique “power” to make a difference in the life of someone you may not even know. It can be as small as thanking your mail carrier for braving the cold weather we’ve be having to deliver the mail, or as big as making a donation of a cow to a family in Africa. Whatever it is, take the time to do something, anything, to reach out to someone as we prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus, the God-man who gave His all for us.