’Tis the season to be jolly but it’s sometimes not as easy as this cheery Christmas carol would suggest. Holiday traffic alone has been enough to turn me into Mrs. Scrooge, but that’s just the beginning of my holiday woes.

Last week I had the bad luck (or stupidity) of falling down my steep driveway pushing an overloaded trashcan filled with a week’s worth of yard trimmings. Next thing I knew my ankle had ballooned to triple its size (sound like something out of an old Looney Tunes cartoon?). Suffice to say, I felt Kobe’s pain on breaking his tibial plateau just as he and the Lakers were gearing up for another championship ring (yeah, right, Laker fans). I realized in a flash this unexpected injury could ruin my fantasy of winning the Tokyo Marathon!

You see, I was one of 39,000 runners picked out of 309,000 entrants for one of the top ten marathons in the world. I was just upping my mileage for the February event as I set out to compete with several sub-three-hour marathoners from my elite track club going to Tokyo.

Okay, so the truth is that it will probably take me twice that long. When the doctor told me that I would have to take the next five or six weeks off training to nurse my badly swollen and bruised ankle, I shuddered at the thought. It’s hard enough to run a marathon with two working ankles than to have to hobble 26.2 miles on one.

Lest I sound too self-pitying, I know many are in far worse predicaments. Maybe I’ve been feeling sorry for me alone because in some sort of karmic payback I’ve been suddenly besieged with others’ hard luck stories. A fellow physical therapy patient told me how he’d spent five months in a hospital bed due to a wrongly prescribed drug that nearly killed him. One of my relatives suffered a heart attack, and another was diagnosed with breast cancer. I’m hoping my former mother-in-law makes it through the end of the year, having just come under hospice care. And that nasty winter flu bug has hit more than one person I know. I’m sure you’ve heard similar tales of holiday gloom.

But just as I feel myself becoming too morose, I am reminded of the strength of someone who chose this holiday season to leave this earth. Nelson Mandela, familiarly known by his clan name Madiba, spent 27 Christmases with misfortune far worse than anyone could imagine. Strangely, at the moment I heard Mandela had died, I was waiting in a movie theater lobby for a South African friend who was caught in holiday traffic on the way to meet me to see the film on his triumphant life, “The Journey Home.”

Knowing far less than my South African friend about her country’s and personal hero, after watching the film and then reading hundreds of tributes since his death (including the heartwarming personal story told by Mike Murase in The Rafu), I now understand better why he stood so tall.

Here was a man who overcame the most horrible adversity with a smile on his face and hope in his heart. Even more, he faced his real-life demons with the spirit of reconciliation and forgiveness. He handled his friends and his enemies with equal grace and kindness. So at the moment of his death, his ghost somehow filled me with a surge of holiday goodness.

Thanks to Madiba, I’ve since tried to limp through this holiday season remembering the lessons he lived. After all, we could all benefit from a little less self-pity and a little more forgiveness. So tomorrow I hope to be putting out the mistletoe with that beautiful soul in mind. Throughout the holidays and into the new year, when faced with misfortune or simply someone who yanks my chain, I’ll try to remember to ask myself, “What would Madiba say?”

And please don’t forget to send your year-end donations to the many organizations in our community that work so hard to further understanding and reconciliation. Here’s wishing you a very, very Merry Christmas and a compassionate New Year.

Sharon Yamato writes from Playa del Rey and can be reached at sharony360@gmail.com. Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.


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