Nelson Mandela, what a man!

Upon finishing the last page of the book, Invictus, I found myself flushed with emotions of joy, sorrow, hope and inquisition.  The setting of this book is one that I am especially fond of, because for the last three years, South Africa has been home to me during the month of December.  As my relationships deepen and my knowledge of their culture and history increase, I cannot help but be appalled at times of my own ignorance to the struggles South Africa has gone through and the injustices that occurred during apartheid.  I find myself amazed that in a modern world these atrocities still occur … and I cannot help but question: why?

Does history really have to repeat itself?  Even though it has in the past, can we finally learn the lessons of those before us without having to experience them first hand?  Is it because we do not share our knowledge with one another or seek understanding beyond that which impacts our everyday life that we must learn those lessons again ourselves?  Or are these tendencies of prejudice, pride and discrimination unfortunately ingrained in humanity?  I have come to the conclusion that it is probably a little of both.  Like most parents, my mother tried to give me guidance growing up to protect me from making the same mistakes she did . . . but there were also times where the life lesson could only be learned through experiencing the pain myself.  We try to teach our children right from wrong, but quite possibly these lessons cannot always be taught sometimes they must be learned on their own.

Invictus is such a powerful book, because it highlights the incredible leadership of Nelson Mandela and his ability as a leader to continually offer a hand of reconciliation where most of us would have been quick to offer retaliation.  If history must repeat itself, then let it also repeat the example that Mandela offers us all . . . one of vision, constantly seeking peace over revenge and humbly being the first to bridge the gap that prejudice so skillfully divided.

As I have mentioned before, sports provides an amazing platform that transcends the differences that exist in our everyday world concerning race, gender, religion and politics. Invictus also does a wonderful job of illustrating that it is not solely the athletes that are responsible for utilizing this powerful element of sports, the fans play a vital role as well.  As a player, I can tell you that I appreciate the passion that our fans exhibit—in the case of the 1995 Rugby World Cup, this passion was masterfully used to help heal and unite a nation.  Granted we are not overcoming an era immediately following apartheid here in the United States, but we are far from perfect in how we respect and understand one another.  Whether you are cheering for me or against me, please allow your passion to help you see that you have more in common with the person next to you this summer!

Thoughts on my recent trip: Over the last three years we have successfully developed relationships with sports and health care personnel in the area, educated the communities about HIV/AIDS and empowered them to do more efficient testing, and brought much needed equipment and gear.  More importantly we are seeing people within the communities take their own initiative.  We now have an executive team in place that is organizing the sports leagues and implementing the mandatory HIV education curriculum.  Previously our sports clinics have consisted of teaching skills to the players, but this year Ernie Nestor and I were actually able to conduct classroom sessions where we coached the coaches.  For the first time, athletes are taking the vision for their communities and their passion for the sport of basketball and are willingly sacrificing their desire to play so they can invest their time in coaching the generations behind them — and I was extremely excited to work with our first female basketball coaches!  Without a doubt there is much work for us to do, but we cannot help but celebrate the small victories along the way! (for more information go to:

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