Much of the world is standing still in memory of one man. To think that one man could have such a massive impact on all of our lives leads me to question why we all feel so powerless to change the world for the better.
Why do we pause in remembrance of one man and his principles, but refuse to honour him by living those principles ourselves? Why do we automatically assume that the principles are impossible to reach for all but the most devout of people?
Here's what will happen in the coming days, weeks and months: Everyone will think of Mandela and of his principles. Everyone will feel strongly about the importance of everything he stood for in his life. Everyone will feel motivated to strive for bettering themselves. Memorials will be held. Monuments will be built. And then, the motivation will fade. Our sense of togetherness will fade. Our desire to honour his memory will fade. We will still think fondly of him. We will give a long sigh whenever we think of him and feel that the world is worse off without him. Essentially, nothing will change. Everything he lived for and stood for will be filed away in our minds as "good things other people did that I could never do".
Today we will not play advertisements on the radios, tomorrow will be business as usual. Today we will be kind to honour his memory, tomorrow our anger will overcome us once again.
It is easy to respect a person for their actions. It is easy to say that another's actions and principles are "good" and "honourable". It is easy to build a monument. It is easy to rename a street. It is easy to rename an airport. What is not easy is following in his footsteps and demanding of ourselves that we be better, that we act with kindness and forgiveness always, that we strive to do always what is best for another, that we act with consideration of another's position and that we do everything we are able to to make this life better for everyone.
If one man can make such a massive difference, why shouldn't we all be able to make the biggest difference: to create a life that is good, comfortable, dignified and filled with opportunities for every single person?
Mandela was just one man - one man who made a big difference. The qualities that he, and our other great leaders, exhibited are qualities that we all share - we are all capable of showing the same compassion and strength in the face of great adversity. There are a great number of people who place their own lives at risk to protect and serve others. There are a great number of professions centered around improving people's lives and helping them in times of need. We do not lack a sense of kindness, compassion or courage - what we lack is the vision to direct our good intentions toward designing and implementing a system, lifestyle and set of principles that would solve all of our social problems in one sweeping move.
There are few figures in this life who dedicate all of themselves to making this life better, to stopping the evils that take place. They live and breathe the suffering of others - the depth of their empathy and compassion is unfathomable. To give up our own interests for only a few years would give us the opportunity to truly change the world.