Giving the Greatest Gift of All

The snow is piling up on my lawn, and people are counting down how many shopping days are left before Christmas. It’s crazy to think that it is already this time of year again, but I’m not complaining.

I refuse to buy winter coats, snow boots or mittens thick enough to face the New England winter. I hate the cold, even though I have an incredible tolerance of it.

Despite that, this time of year is one of my favorites because, at least for me, it is a reminder of what matters — love, honesty and selflessness. The temperature doesn’t change how you should feel.

Though sometimes it is hard to do, the wintery atmosphere reminds us the value of opening ourselves up to feel love and to be generous in our sharing of it. We all face our own hesitancies when it comes down to being vulnerable, but always, the rewards outweighs the risk.

nelson-mandela-1I was reminded of this after Nelson Mandela’s passing. He changed so much with love. In the face of pain that I will never know, Mandela kept a mantra of peace. To the people who had so wronged him and the people of South Africa, he did not show a cold heart, a vengeful one looking to get even. He showed love and compassion.

“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 than its opposite.”   — Nelson Mandela

We are closer than ever to seeing the places Mandela fought for equality, and on our itinerary is a trip to Robben Island. This means more with each passing day.

Mandela’s death impacted me more than I ever thought it would. This semester was spent learning about the culture of South Africa and its history, and it is impossible to learn about such things without learning about Nelson Mandela. To know that people like him exist in this world is a relief. With the news covering wars and shootings at the mall, often times, I think how it could be me in uniform or holding a shopping bag to witness the worst of humankind. It can be anyone.

But now, because of Nelson Mandela and what I have learned before this trip, I realized that the peacemaker can also be anyone. One of the greatest messages Mandela left with the world is that anyone is capable of tolerance. Anyone can give peace, you just need to choose it. It is easier for the heart to love, but in times of pain, the ability to do so becomes harder yet more needed.

I’ve done my best to take this in my daily life. If I, and others can take a breath to slow the world down and to show love when it would be easier to lash out, Mandela and the other peaceful minds of our time will live on.

In the face of adversity, we must love. Inner peace reflects outward, and anger only creates a cycle of hatred that can never be beaten with more hatred.

And as our trip becomes more of a reality and less of a dream, I am thankful for the reminder that the most important present that can be given or received is too large to fit in any gift bag.


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