I am grateful for the world Nelson Mandela left behind

     Former South African President Nelson Mandela is shown in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 2009. (AP Photo/Pool-Theana Calitz-Bilt, Pool)

    Former South African President Nelson Mandela is shown in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 2009. (AP Photo/Pool-Theana Calitz-Bilt, Pool)

    I can honestly say that I have never understood how someone could come to tears over the death of a public figure; a person he never even met. But I have learned today. Nelson Mandela has had such a profound effect on my psyche. 

    Growing up as a gay man in the ’80s and ’90s was not the easiest. I can honestly say that I drew significant strength from Mandela’s story, speeches and actions. I am having a hard time imagining a world without him, but I am grateful that I don’t have to live in a world of which he was never a part. 

    Madiba brought a light and a hope to a dark place. He set out to bring peace and equality to his homeland, but he did so much more than that. He, and men and women like him, taught those of us who were children while they were at the height of their activity, that the strength of one person can stem a tide of hatred. They taught us that a single light is all it takes to banish the darkness of repression and fear. And they taught us that humankind is so much more than the sum of its parts — that each and every one of us bring something to the table and that, by having the courage to stand together, we can change anything.

    I, for one, am grateful to Madiba and his contemporaries for the lessons they taught me. I am grateful for the world that they handed me, and I am willing to take up the banner. I am willing to learn what I have to learn, do what I have to do, and be who I have to be to carry their charge. I mourn the death of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela. However, I celebrate his life and I wish him good journey and peace. His long struggle is over, and he deserves to rest. We can take it from here.

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