South Africans looked for hope and found him

During my college days in the late 1960s, I spent a year studying in East Africa. During my travels, I had the privilege of spending a week in South Africa, staying with a "colored" friend and his family I had met in Europe. Before my visit, I knew little about apartheid and how it would affect my visit. The rules of apartheid followed us everywhere we went. To be seen at public venues together was strictly prohibited. The colored had their days and times; we whites had ours.

We spent long hours discussing the oppression they suffered under this racist system of government and their longing for change. They turned to the United States for encouragement and hope only to have the tragic deaths of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy greatly discourage them. Little did they know that in the years to come, one of their own, who at the time was manacled behind prison walls, would rise up and work tirelessly for their freedom and restore their dignity.

GORDIE DEAN, Arden Hills

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Few people make as profound or indelible a mark on their fellow human beings as Nobel Peace Prize winner Nelson Mandela. Among the best known and most widely revered of international citizens, his passing will be mourned by millions. Were his beloved South Africa's future fortunes assured, perhaps his passing would be less painful.

Not only has South Africa lost a luminary, but the world has lost a moral force of incalculable dimensions. Still, his persistence, his idealism and his pragmatism light the path for all and for all time.

MAUREEN K. REED, Minneapolis


Reviews continue to be mixed, but check it out

For the past four-plus years, I have paid more than $1,100 per month for health insurance. I am retired and live on a fixed income of Social Security and life savings. With a bit of effort and some bumps, I am an approved member of MNsure, and that will mean a savings of $600 per month. My new policy has a $100 deductible vs. $800 under my previous plan.

The copays are less, and the 80/20 coverage the same. Did I have some difficulty getting a profile on MNsure? Yes, but when I got help from a free navigator, the process was made easy and ultimately successful. I had more trouble buying online on Black Friday. Thank you, President Obama, from a single rose. Soon we will outnumber the thorns that now prick you and the reputation of the Affordable Care Act.


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So far, here's my experience with MNsure: It took two hours to fill in an application "estimated" to take 25 minutes. Reviewing the application before submitting, I discovered that my biological son was listed as a "former foster child," with no field to edit that out. In fact, there was no field in the application where that information would have been input in the first place. Today was my fourth attempt to speak with someone live to correct the error. After being on hold for 60 minutes with vapid Muzak playing, the MNsure phone rang as if to connect to a real person. Alas, it was a recorded message that relayed, "The number you have dialed is incorrect," and then the line disconnected. I feel as if I am in a Franz Kafka bureaucratic labyrinth. Help!



What can you do for them? Try respect

Steven Lukas raises some thought-provoking questions in his Dec. 4 commentary, "The wrong side of recovery." And they don't have easy answers. What should we do when we encounter a homeless person?

As someone who works with homeless individuals for a living, I can tell you what they tell us. One of the most impactful things you can do is to simply offer a smile and a "hello."

Too often, the homeless are ignored and made to feel like they don't exist. The dignity and respect of a smile and greeting accomplishes more than anyone can know in helping to boost confidence and self-esteem — that same confidence and self-esteem necessary to begin moving toward recovery.

Saying hello won't end homelessness, and it won't make living outdoors any easier. But the fact is, it's far less important that a person is homeless than that we treat him or her like a person to begin with.


The writer is director of homeless outreach for People Incorporated Mental Health Services, St. Paul


Use lights in snow, but take care with brights

The Letter of the Day "Drivers: Don't be in the dark about headlights, snowstorms" (Dec. 6) could not have come at a better time. Yes, drivers, please turn on your headlights in bad weather. However, I have noticed that more drivers are driving with their high beams turned on at all times. Their lights blind me and other drivers as we're approaching their vehicles. My father told me to turn the high beams down when a car is coming toward you. Isn't this common courtesy?

MARY McVEY, Woodbury