18th July is Mandela Day . To commemorate the 93rd birthday of our great leader he has asked that we donate 67 minutes of our time to doing good, to mark the 67 years Mandela spent serving South Africa. The Official Mandela Day website has 67 great suggestions and our new Improve Your World Today page lists some of the charities who have gone out of their way to organise events you can easily take part in on or around Mandela Day.
There are several ways of celebrating, and gratefully acknowledging, the extraordinary life of Nelson Mandela, one of the giants of our century. GreaterGoodSA deserve a special mention, as it looks as though many GreaterGoodSA projects are still looking for support. You could take part in Community Gardening in Cape Town or donate your warm winter clothes and blankets in Johannesburg for example. For those of us working, there’s no prescribed date for your act of generosity, and Cheesekids.org for example are receiving a lot of support by cleverly organising all their activities on Sunday 17th July.
Many of us will, over the next few days, be performing their own act, whatever that might be. If you’re looking for something to do at home, one which I’d suggest, and intend to follow, is the planting of a tree. In your back garden, in a container on your apartment balcony, in bonsai form if yours is a small indoor flatlet. Choose a tree of significance – a spekboom, because of its carbon absorption properties; a peach or apple or guava tree, because it will in seven years time start producing fruit, which can satisfy a hunger; a scented blossom tree or ilex or Pride of India because it will flower, and become a thing of beauty.
Plant a tree because of what it will become in the future. Mandela spent most of his adult life striving for, dreaming about a future which many thought impossible.
Buy the sapling you select, the compost and bone meal this coming weekend. Choose the spot in which your tree will spend its lifetime. Perform the planting in the early morning sunlight, and make sure you are not interrupted, that you are able to focus on, contemplate and celebrate the thing you are doing, the man you are acknowledging.
Try, also, to promise yourself that you will, at the beginning of each month hereafter, spend 67 minutes sitting alongside that tree, meditating on the role each of us could play in healing the wounds of our neighbourhood, our community, our country, if we are committed to making that effort.