As I ride the elevator up and down in the office building where our Indiana Conference Service Center is located on the north side of Indianapolis, I often ride with persons from the other offices in our building. My style is to greet them, engage in brief conversation, and to try to be friendly. I always think it is important for "church people" like me to display such friendliness to others, because we church people have a bad reputation in our culture of being cold, judgmental and concerned about ourselves. Sad to say, that is too true in too many cases. Every church tells me "we are friendly" -- but usually that means "we are friendly to each other." Anyway, I greet people, and I note their responses. Most are friendly in return, and they often say, "Have a nice day" or, "Have a good one."
One person whom I encounter on our elevator has a different greeting. He says to me, "Make it a good one." I like that. To "have a nice day" or to "have good one" sounds like we are not in control of our days. Indeed, we are not, and life happens to us. But we are in control of our response to the day and to life in general. It seems to me that most people who are happy and joyous have mastered the ability to "make it a good one" every day -- no matter what their circumstances.
The news of the death of Nelson Mandela reminds us of a person who had an amazing ability to "make it a good one." He took his many years of imprisonment and turned that into a witness for peace and justice. He refused to blame others and to fall into hatred over his mistreatment -- but instead he "made it a good one" and inspired a whole nation to change. His life will be remembered with persons like Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. because he made a difference.
I had the opportunity to meet Mr. Mandela in 2006 when the Council of Bishops of the UMC met in Mozambique and he made a surprise visit to our final dinner. He was already old and frail then, but his spirit was bright and he was inspiring to meet and to hear. His wife is a life-long United Methodist, and Nelson himself received education in United Methodist schools, so we United Methodists can take some pride in how our support of missions and education helped to nurture such a world-changer. Certainly faith and education and hope and courage were the hallmarks of the life of Nelson Mandela.
So ... when I ride the elevator and when I encounter those days which are not "nice" or "good" on their own, I will keep trying to "make it a good one" and to make a difference in Indiana and around the world.
Let me close by saying to you, "Make it a good one." God bless you.