January 1, 2014

From: Mohammed Rafiq Lodhia
To: My Fellow Americans
Subject: “WHAT CAN I GIVE YOU IN RETURN?”

My Dear Fellow Americans,

Aunt Kate’s “Day-to-Day Book” printed and published in Great Britain (1937) consisted of a thought for those in the building trade as follows:

Life is a building. It rises slowly day by day throughout the years.
Every new lesson we learn lays a block on the edifice which is
rising silently within us. Every experience, every touch of another
life on ours, every influence that impresses us, every book we
read, every conversation we have, every act of our commonest
days adds something to the indivisible building.

Education“Character Building” is what life is all about. In his book “Thought Etchings” (1888), author J. M. Scott eloquently described it as “The man who thoroughly knows his own character and principles of right, and speaks from them with an honest voice, cannot fail but have a message for the world and speak it with charm.” That man was Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, renowned as the world’s “Ambassador of Conscience” and lovingly known as “Madiba. Reflecting upon his wisdom, I find that the most meaningful one which truly defines the very word “Conscience” is as follows:

A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination.

Isn’t this the ultimate truth of plainly being “A Human”? My intense admiration for the word of wisdom of great men and women had compelled me to use my calligraphy pen, while as a young man living in New York City (1972) which amply demonstrates my own personal appreciation of “Teachers.

“A Little Remembrance” of the legendary movie, “To Sir With Love,” displays a classic moment not only of expressing a sincere and humble gratitude to the teacher (Sidney Poitier), but also how it can move even a tough minded person to come to tears. By merely watching the last few seconds of the YouTube clip, where the teacher remains spellbound by hearing one of the students singing, and more so by being speechless on receiving a small gift of love is what can make one realize the feelings of how Nelson Mandela aptly characterized as a formidable combination of head and heart.

The time has come,
For closing books and long last looks must end,
And as I leave,
I know that I am leaving my best friend,
A friend who taught me right from wrong,
And weak from strong,
That’s a lot to learn,
What can I give you in return?

If you wanted the moon I would try to make a start,
But I, would rather you let me give my heart,
To Sir, with Love

“WHAT CAN I GIVE YOU IN RETURN?” That’s one very sensitive question, which we must be forever conscious about and always keep it in our minds during our daily interactions with our fellow humans. Life should not only be about “Me.” It should be about “We.” Expressing a genuine “Thank You,” returning kind words for kind words, good deeds for good deeds, and most importantly, by imbibing moral values of life through securing basic education is what helps build the “Human Character.

Imagine, with all the prejudices based on the color of skin, the world has witnessed one greatest son of Africa, Nelson Mandela who taught that the best of all human actions are “Forgiveness and Reconciliation, whereas, another noble son of America, Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., who taught us that “Hatred paralyzes life; love releases it. Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it. Hatred darkens life; love illuminates it.” Simply put, in return for vengeance, one must learn to forgive, and in return for hatred one must learn to love. Small wonder that “God works in mysterious ways.

“We The People” of the United States of America have always expressed our “Emotional Intelligence, whenever we found something that was not right. Our collective wisdom were always at the forefront of handling our nation’s tough issues be it racial or otherwise. Those of us who are past sixties now, are well aware of how our fellow Americans were once overwhelmed with an outburst of hearty laughter, while watching Archie Bunker and Fred Sanford define their own versions of “Black & White” racial slur. Oh well, before watching the glimpse, be mindful that those were the good ole days where racial humors were tolerated with good spirits.

Fred Sanford “White Cops”

Sammy Davis Kisses Archie Bunker

Muhammad Ali on Black and White

Nelson Mandela once remarked, “I detest racialism, because I regard it as a barbaric thing, whether it comes from a black man or a white man.” Our beloved President Ronald Wilson Reagan was no friend of apartheid wrote Newt Gingrich in his recent article on CNN opinion page. Michael Reagan, son of President Reagan and president of The Reagan Legacy Foundation clarified his father’s position on apartheid as being “a malevolent and archaic system totally alien to our ideals.”

Truthfully speaking, I abhorred “Apartheid. My heroes were Muhammad Ali (The Greatest Boxer of all Time), Pele (The Finest Soccer Player), Sir Garfield Sobers (The Outstanding All-Rounder in Cricket), Sidney Poitier (The Superb Actor), Sammy Davis, Jr.(The Fabulous Singer), and Stevie Wonder (The Gifted Singer). Who can forget Oprah Winfrey? My beloved parents, Noor Mohammed Lodhia and Fatima Lodhia never taught us to hate fellow humans on account of the color of their skin. The most valuable lessons they imparted upon their children was to be honest in our dealings and to serve with honor and dignity during our lifetime. (May God rest their souls in peace.) This moral teaching reminds me of the two quotes of Muhammad Ali, which has always been ingrained in my mind. These are as follows:

Hating people because of their color is wrong. And it doesn’t
matter which color does the hating. It’s just plain wrong.

Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.

Our President Barack Obama in his emotional statement on hearing about the death of “Madiba” expressed his sentiments with the following words, “Today he’s gone home, and we’ve lost one of the most influential, courageous and profoundly good human beings that any of us will share with on this earth.” A South African social activist Desmond Mpilo Tutu said that “We promise God that we are going to follow the example of Nelson Mandela.” Why not? That is the only way to live by the spirit of “WHAT CAN WE GIVE YOU IN RETURN?”

Last but not the least, after watching the vintage moment of “To Sir With Love, why not listen to another outpouring of tremendous “Love” for the greatest teacher of humankind by his own countrymen as “We Love You Tata, We Love You Tata. We Love You Dear Madiba,” To this wish, kindly allow me to respectfully add, “May God rest your soul in perfect peace and keep you in ‘Heaven’  forever.”

Sing For Madiba

“The Lodhia Family” wishes all of our fellow Americans a splendid New Year filled with heartfelt emotions, boundless joy and unlimited kindness. Let’s make a difference in the world by doing what is morally and spiritually right, and above all, by learning to embrace the spirit of “Forgiveness” by ways of spreading “Love” to all of our fellow humans regardless of race, color or creed as taught by none other than the world’s most respected and revered teacher, “Tata Madiba.

Very compassionately yours,

Mohammed Rafiq Lodhia

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