Sometimes I wonder if I have ever truly made a sacrifice. As Black History Month comes to a close, I’ve had the chance to reflect on the sacrifices of countless individuals who faced struggles of racism, bigotry, and injustice in the hope that I, the next generation, would live in a world of freedom. I get chills when I think about the many bodies that filled jail cells, the innocent blood slaughtered, and the tired feet of senior citizens walking up and down the streets because they refused to step on a bus during a boycott. This is a type of sacrifice that I have never known.
Judith Offer’s poem “I Have Nothing to Say about Nelson Mandela” is another expression of unparalleled sacrifice that is hard for me to grasp. The poem places a discussion of the more than twenty-five years that Nelson Mandela spent in prison next to ironing a shirt, stirring honey chicken, and mowing the lawn, chores that most of us take for granted. While we go about our days, hours, minutes, and seconds, filling our lives with what we think are life-fulfilling experiences, someone is out there making a sacrifice on our behalf.
Sometimes I wonder if I ever will make a sacrifice. Will it hurt, or will I feel better than I ever have in my life? I tend to think that it will be the latter. I remember that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once quoted Ms. Pollard, a seventy-two year old woman who during a bus boycott, made the timeless statement that “my feets is tired but my soul is rested.” Like Ms. Pollard, Nelson Mandela, Dr. King, and the many individuals who have made unimaginable sacrifices, I want to one day be at rest, knowing that I have given something of myself so that another person, even centuries later, will gain.
“Nelson, Nelson Mandela, Mandigo,
When was the last time you wore
An ironed shirt, the smell of success?”
—excerpt of “I Have Nothing to Say about Nelson Mandela”