MANDELA DAY - random acts of kindness key to healing our country
July 20, 2018
Author: Jopie de Beer, CEO of JvR Africa Group
Mandela Day serves to remind South Africans to follow President Mandela’s example of caring for others, this is a day where many take the initiative to help and support wherever and however they can.
We also heard at the inauguration speech by President Ramaphosa how, in true Madiba style, he referred to the Hugh Masekela song, Thuma Mina that says:
I wanna be there when people start to turn it around
When they triumph over poverty
I wanna be there when people win the battle against AIDS
I wanna lend a hand
I wanna be there for the alcoholic
I wanna be there for the drug addict
I wanna be there for the victim of violence and abuse
I wanna lend a hand
The essence of this song is to be of service where there is a need.
The ability of people to be considerate, generous, helpful, empathetic and supportive most often without expecting anything in return is referred to as kindness. To be kind to others does not come naturally to all people. Many may prefer to “look out for themselves” and their reasoning is often that “nobody has been kind to me, why should I be kind to them”.
To recognise kindness in others and to be kind to others without expecting anything in return, therefore, requires a special breed of people. This character strength has nothing to do with age, gender, race, culture or creed. It is a personal characteristic, a value and a personal choice that people make, and it has a significant impact on others.
What President Mandela knew about kindness (and it has been supported in research) is that kind people tend to be happier people because they know they mean something to others. Their kindness plays an incredibly valuable role in building good relationships in society. Good relationships are essential to make any society flourish. To understand that, we should all understand that you do unto others what you want to have them do unto you – this helps to build the moral fibre of our society.
When South Africa changed politically in 1994, President Mandela deeply understood the risks associated with a new democracy. The way he led the country was done without media and ego-centric fanfare. He deeply cared about “at risk” people and the quality of their lives. He focused on systematic planning and worked hard to have everyone work together to achieve daunting socio-economic goals.
The essence is that he cared more about others than himself. He was humble rather than ego-centric; he brought hope and understanding rather than bitterness, anger and blame. He was a very wise man who will be loved and respected by many generations to come.
Kindness, helpfulness, understanding, respect, willingness to share, are all actions with a positive emotional undertone. Those who care about others understand that there is a link between kindness, gratitude, care, happiness and general well-being and good social relationships. Personal gratitude and interpersonal kindness can “undo” damaging negative emotions like anger and despair.
Try this by logging, for one month, everything you should be grateful for as well as your acts of kindness. You may find a heightened sense of well-being and even lower stress levels. How interesting it is that when you feel happier, you will also more easily show acts of kindness.
President Mandela knew that there are many benefits to genuine acts of kindness. It is inextricably linked to personal happiness and feeling connected to others. Kindness is critically important to building a sense of community and belonging.
When asked how best people should live their lives, Henry James (the well-known novelist) said: “only 3 things are important – the 1st is to be kind… the 2nd… to be kind and the 3rd… to be kind. The same wisdom is seen in the following statement by President Mandela:
“I believe that in the end, it is kindness and generous accommodation that are catalysts for real change”.
In a country where fear and anger, selfishness and greed are reported on every day, we should celebrate the wisdom of President Mandela with all our heart. Let’s all do our best to make a difference.