“He who isn’t courageous enough to take risks, will accomplish nothing in life.” –Muhammad Ali
I remember meeting Ali when I was a tiny human. His presence came at a very delicate time in my life. It was the late 80s and I was away at Camp Wagner for the summer. The shortcomings of my own father had swelled in me like a flood. Summers filled with empty promises…the endless waiting, the constant letdown. The pain made me hard. Camp was a way for me to escape all of that.
Ali came to camp to visit us, just 25 minutes away from his home in Berrien Springs, MI. I gazed up at a brave man, a strong man—to a kid, he was still the great boxer in his prime, although he had retired years before. He told all of us we could be anything we wanted to be and we could be the greatest at it. When one of the other kids asked, “ Anything?”
He pointed at him and said, “ Anything. All of you. All of you can be anything you want to be.”
When he said “anything” it hit the core of me, like a gavel in a judge’s hand—the verdict, the final decision. What he said was so. And I believed. We all sat there, mesmerized as he continued to encourage us. I was dazzled by his presence and clung to every word.
Ali stayed with us the entire afternoon—playing with us, wrestling with us. He even did this trick that convinced all of us he could levitate (I never figured out how to do it…).
The time he spent with us at camp forever changed me. That day, I felt loved by Ali the way a daughter should feel loved. Although there were other kids around, he just had a way about him that made me feel like I was the most important person in the world.
I’m sorry I didn’t see him again, to show him I followed my passion, that I am a dream chaser. But for some reason, I think he already knew I would when he looked down at me, smiled wide and pulled me in for a tight hug.
I had always been in awe of Ali, but that day he became one of my earth heroes.
I still believe in his advice for my life; his revolution, love, fight, bravery, strength, wisdom and tenacity.
I pray to God that my life may impact others in a positive way like Ali’s did for me.
Thank you God, for giving us Ali, “The People’s Champ.“ Thank you, Ali for your surrender to your call and purpose.
(also posted on guideposts.org)