Honoring a Man and Humanity on Mandela Day

Written by CBS News' Sarah Carter in Johannesburg

I drive past her everyday as I drop my children at school. She stands there cold with her very young baby held on her back with a blanket.

I usually give her whatever coins I have in my change dispenser. But generally we are late, in a hurry, and rush right past her, stopping just long enough to pass her the coins.

Today was different. In the spirit of the first-ever Mandela Day, I stopped.

We got out, and my three daughters and I brought her food and toys for her baby.

Her name is Lindewa, and her son, Khuklwano, is 3 months old. We gave them some food and toys and heard a little about her life at a squatter camp where they live in a shack.

We were brought together by a man whose strength and humility mobilized the world. Today he did it again, mobilizing not only my neighborhood, but those across South Africa.

(AP/D. Yazbek-Nelson, Mandela Fdn.)
Celebrating his 91st birthday under a marquee in his Johannesburg garden, surrounded by family and senior leaders from the African National Congress, the man of the hour beamed as they sang him "Happy Birthday" and "For He's A Jolly Good Fellow!" Then with the help of his wife, Graca Machel, Nelson Mendala blew out his candles on a cake made in the shape of the numbers 91.

This year, to honor the former president and apartheid fighter's contributions to South Africa, the Nelson Mandela Foundation has started a global movement to turn July 18 into Mandela Day. The call is for people around the world to do some kind of volunteer work, community up-liftment, for 67 minutes, a minute for each of the years Nelson Mandela worked in public service.

Across the country South Africans heeded the call. Local radio stations raised millions of rand, while many citizens volunteered at hospitals, clinics, orphanages or simply did something nice for the people around them.

In my neighborhood I saw people cleaning up garbage from a park and along river banks. Others dropped off toys and food at local charities. It was a day filled with Madiba magic. I saw it throughout the day.

After a few hours of delivering food, we drove past Lindewa on our way home. She was still at her corner, but for the first time ever I saw she was surrounded by bags of donations — blankets, food, pots and pans. A woman and baby whose lives were touched not just by the community around them, but by a special man whose actions continue to bring out the humanity of this nation.

  • David Morgan

    David Morgan is a senior editor at CBSNews.com and cbssundaymorning.com.