Tag Archives: Nelson Mandela

Forgiveness is a Place

Yahweh's Other ShoeFunny how when you start to think about something, you suddenly see incarnations of it everywhere. There’s probably a good Yiddish word for that phenomenon. A couple of days ago, I wrote about Nelson Mandela’s smile and that same night, browsing the bookshelves here in Minnesota, I came across a book of poems by Brother Kilian McDonnell. He writes more eloquently than I ever could about Nelson Mandela :

For twenty-seven years he built a house

of freedom within the house of pain…

For twenty-seven years he drew no syllogistic

judgment of revenge—blood for blood, grave

for grave—no clichéd homilies of cheap grace.

He breaks open truth’s dungeon, uncages

robes of justice, erases the colored gavel,

unapartheiding tables and toilets, unscrambling

the syntax of despair, un-poisoning the chalice,

drinking from the cup with those who locked his cell.

This is freedom. Here all can breathe.

Forgiveness.  Maybe it’s not an act, but a place. A place we go to share the cup with people the world would excuse us for hating. A place where language does not intimidate because all are fluent in smiling. A place where the air is so Maine-morning fresh with freedom that all can breathe. I’m booking my ticket to that place today.

Smile Like Nelson Mandela


Nelson-MandelaIt is tempting to not turn on the news this week. Once again I am out in Minnesota, being splendidly taken care of by the good folks at The Collegeville Institute for Ecumenical and Cultural Research. I have my own lakefront apartment and last night they welcomed us with local beer and wild rice and maple brats. Under the spell of such extravagant welcome, it would be easy to let the world fall away.

But being something of a news junky (and since I am here for a residency on digital media), I couldn’t resist a little peek at CNN this morning. Where I learned Nelson Mandela is in the hospital again. He’s 94 now. One of these times, we are going to lose him. When we do, the world will lose one of its great, great smiles.

Some say it’s the eyes that tell, but for me, it’s the smile. I fall in love with smiles. It’s where a person’s character is revealed. Who in this world has a better smile than Nelson Mandela? All those years in prison, that extraordinary capacity for forgiveness, delight, wisdom–it’s all there in his smile. One of these days the world is going to lose that smile. And it will be up to us to fill that void with other smiles. So start now. Smile like Nelson Mandela.