Have you read Playing the Enemy, John Carlin’s biography of Nelson Mandela? If not, I highly recommend it. I read it about two years ago, and found it both interesting and moving.
One thing that stuck with me was the following: every morning, the first thing Mr. Mandela did upon arising was to make his bed. Twenty-seven years in prison on Robben Island, where he slept on a pallet with nothing more than a thin blanket, still each morning, he would make his bed. Every morning after that, as President of South Africa, Nobel Peace Prize winner, and everything else this wonderful man accomplished in his long, influential life, the first thing he did upon arising was to make his bed.
I make my bed every morning. Always have. And as I do it, I think of Nelson Mandela. As I pull up the sheet, straighten the blanket, bedspread, and pillows, I think of his pallet and thin blanket. Sometimes I marvel at his forbearance, his fortitude, his intellect (I wouldn’t have been able to learn Afrikaans), all that kept him going through 27 years of captivity.
I think about his strength of character and generosity of spirit, all on display as he pulled South Africa away from apartheid, trying to guide his country toward equality. I think of him as a sports fan, using athletics to unite his people. I remember the movie Invictus: Morgan Freeman, hand-picked by Mandela to play him, and Matt Damon, a physically small man portraying a large rugby player (so well!)
As I make my bed every day, I try to imbue the menial task with mindfulness, thinking of Nelson Mandela.I will never lead a country. I will never win a Nobel prize. I am not great. But perhaps I can be a little more like him today, I think. All I can do is try.
Some mornings when I’m rushed or tired, the thought may cross my mind not to bother making the bed right then. But then I think that if Nelson Mandela can make his bed every morning, so can I. The only thing different from now on will be, “If Nelson Mandela could make his bed;” past tense.
May his brilliant soul rest in eternal peace, and may his memory always be a blessing.