Do you have any heroes?
Yes, and I’m glad you asked because I am reading the autobiography of one of them right now, entitled Long Walk to Freedom, by Nelson Mandela.
He lived a remarkable life—from tending cattle as a boy to working as a fiery young lawyer in Johannesburg, then leading the underground wing of the African National Congress before being wrongly convicted of conspiring to overthrow the state and serving 27 long, lonely years in prison. For 18 of those years, he was housed in an 8-foot by 7-foot concrete cell with only a straw mat to sleep on and singled out daily for humiliating punishment by his jailers.
One quality above others, that caused Mandela to stand out was his capacity to forgive and to let go of the past. After he was elected president of South Africa, he insisted on inviting one of his former jailers to dinner. On another occasion, he invited the state prosecutor, who trumped up the charges that sent him to prison, to lunch. The man questioned how Mandela could even think about having lunch with someone who had wronged him so maliciously. Mandela’s answer captured the essence of his character: “As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn't leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I'd still be in prison.”
After being elected president of South Africa a reporter asked Mandela how he withstood all those years of torture in prison. He simply replied those weren’t years of torture, they were years of preparation, that prepared him to lead his country.