February 18 through 24 was an emotional week for me. Occasionally, my emotions will crash the gate and take an uncharted spin. Monday of that week, my wife and I took a trip to the Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock, Arkansas. It was a federal holiday and what better time to visit the facility than when entry is free. We had been wanting to see the Nelson Mandela exhibit for some time. We saw it, and it was not disappointing in the least bit. Although not disappointing, it did touch my emotions at the rawest of levels. Exhibits like this are often hard for me to process emotionally. I recall, a few years ago we went to Memphis to visit the civil rights museum, which houses some very moving exhibits from the Civil Rights struggle, during the fifties and sixties. Half way through the facility, I found myself sensing a heaviness of heart. I couldn’t quite figure out what was going on. Then, I realized the sheer weight of my personal memories of what occurred during that time had overwhelmed me.
As I viewed the replica of the cell (8 ft. by 7 ft.) Nelson Mandela was forced to live in for twenty-seven years, I found myself yanking on the leash of my emotions, trying to place them behind the gate from which they had escaped. The entire exhibit showed the contrast between the horrors of Apartheid the black people of South Africa had to contend with and the intestinal fortitude of a people, who were determined to fight the injustice forced upon them. I found myself asking the question: How could these people develop themselves to the level of intellectual capacity they possessed, considering all they went through? Mandela himself ended up answering the call to be the president of his beloved South Africa. He also exhibited a level of forgiveness many could not understand in him. Why wasn’t he bitter? Why didn’t he want to seek retribution for all that was done to him and his people? The obvious answer to those questions for me is that there is a universal level of grace some of us can tap into, while others of us are programmed to always want our pound of flesh.
I hope she doesn’t mind me mentioning this, but just as I was exiting the Mandela exhibit, trying to compose myself, my oldest child called me to tell me that she had been diagnosed with stage-2 breast cancer. Have you ever felt like a train just ran over you, and as you’re almost erect, a Mack truck comes along and knocks you to the ground again? My daughter seemed strong and emotionally collected as she gave the unwanted news. I couldn’t talk very long; it almost started to rain inside the Clinton Presidential Library. Later, during the week my daughter and I had a conversation about her health predicament. It’s amazing how rational discussions can be when emotions have been ratcheted down a few levels. Rational approaches allow us to see light amid an ebony hued emotional landscape.
Oh, I fail to mention how the week started off. We made several attempts to see the new cinematic offering, Black Panther. I plan to write more about it later. However, I did want to say that I don’t recall ever being challenged like this to get into a theatre to see a movie. The experience provided some great entertainment for my wife and me. It also produced some interesting cultural and sociological thoughts. The emotional high it produced was followed by the realities of life previously mentioned. Life is the challenge we all face, and it does come with a variety of emotions.
I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.