It seems counter-intuitive but so often the most inspiring people are those who prevail in the toughest conditions. People who can find hope in dire circumstances give hope to all of us who have challenges but not nearly such hard obstacles to face. Hope is the most powerful weapon on earth. Not only is hope at the heart of the Biblical narrative. Hebrew slaves dared to hope that God was calling them to build a new nation. Galilean disciples who had lost their leader hoped and believed that God had breathed new life into them through the Holy Spirit and nothing was impossible after that.
But we also see plenty of modern examples of people that change their own lives through hope that is bold and tenacious. An English professor from Emory, Tayari Jones, has been studying the unpublished letters that Nelson Mandela wrote from jail. In his kind and courageous words we see a hope that inspired South Africans and that gives us pause and reason to be grateful to him, even today,
His words speak for themselves.
“It may be long before I come back; it may be soon. Nobody knows when it will be, not even the judge who said I should be kept here. But I am certain that one day I will be back at home to live in happiness with you until the end of my days.”
Feb. 4 1969 Written to his five children
“It is not so much the disability one suffers from that matters, but one’s attitude to it, The man who says, I will conquer this illness..is already halfway through to victory. Remember that hope is a powerful weapon even when all else is lost. You are in my thoughts every moment of my life..You will certainly recover and rise.
Writing to his wife Winnie about how Mandela was inspired by Dr. Norman Vincent Peale’s The Power of Positive Thinking. April 1969
Throughout the many years of incarceration numerous messages of good wishes and hope sent by people of different walks of life have cut through massive iron doors and grim stone walls…Frankly there are moments like now when I feel the whole world or at least a greater part of it has been squeezed into my tiny cell, and I have more time to think and dream…with far more friends than ever before.”
Written to a friend May 1979
Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 27 years and he wrote hundreds of letters which are being made public now. You can read more of his correspondence in the Sunday Review, New York Times July 8, 2018.