I just got done reading Nelson Mandela’s autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom. It is a stunning book. The beginning is a little bit tough just because there is so much background knowledge and information that needs to be presented and shared. Once Mandela begins describing the struggle and the process involved behind their actions, the book is gripping. Mandela is delightfully honest about his actions, reasoning, successes and failures throughout the struggle for freedom.
The last forty pages of the book gave me goose bumps; I could not sit the book down until I finished. After I was finished I was wishing for more. His message about courage and hope, one that I have heard before without realizing who had written it, was even more powerful within the context of Mandela’s story:
“It is from these comrades in the struggle that I learned the meaning of courage. Time and again, I have seen men and women risk and give their lives for an idea. I have seen men stand up to attacks and torture without breaking, showing a strength and resiliency that defies the imagination. I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. I felt fear myself more times than I can remember, but I hid it behind a mask of boldness. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear” (622).
Another popular quotation from this book that came alive with the new knowledge of Mandela’s story:
“I never lost hope that this great transformation would occur. Not only because of the great heroes I have already cited, but because of the courage of the ordinary men and women of my country. I always knew that deep down in every human heart, there is mercy and generosity. No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart that its opposite. Even in the grimmest times in prison, when my comrades and I were pushed to our limits, I would see a glimmer of humanity in one of the guards, perhaps just for a second, but it was enough to reassure me and keep me going. Man’s goodness is a flame that can be hidden but never extinguished” (622).
This book makes me so grateful to be in Cambodia right now, at this very moment, and to be able to witness the incredible transformation and rebirth of this wonderful country and it’s amazing people. There are so many sights within Phnom Penh and the rest of the country that show how hateful people were, and can be; however, right outside of these sights are smiling people who are so proud of their country and excited to show you exactly how fabulous this place is.