What Mandela Meant to My 5 year old Me

Can I tell you what Nelson Mandela meant to my 5 year old me back in the early 80s?

Once with our dad in the grocery store he didn’t want to buy the apples from South Africa and we demanded to know why. He told about how there was a country far away where people were treated differently, and how us in other countries shouldn’t buy their things, so that they would understand what they did was wrong. This was a tricky thing to explain for three small girls with one million questions.

“It would be like… if Maria (their friend’s daughter) wouldn’t be allowed to sit on the same bus as you”, he explained, as he trailed us through the store with a shopping cart filled with the boring groceries that characterized Sweden in the 1980s.

The story haunted me and then a few years later the front pages were filled with the news on how Mandela was released. One of my friends’ father explained what the headlines were about as we were going home from an outing, passing by the placards.

These and other stories about Mandela and South Africa must have affected my in a way I didn’t realize. But I’m glad I asked so many questions and grown ups were willing to take time explaining things to me instead of sugarcoating it, even if the burden of knowledge can be difficult for a child. It helped me in becoming who I am today.

What did Mandela mean to you?