It was a powerful experience listening to people from all walks of life, all faiths, talk about the man they knew as Muhammad Ali. A boxer who could float like a butterfly and sting like a bee, and yet he was so much more than that. He was in fact a brilliant reminder of what people can be when their hearts are full of love, respect and compassion.
He spoke the truth. He refused to kill people and go to war. He knew war was wrong on a multitude of levels.
He played patty cake with children and shook the hands of Presidents.
He was a physically powerful, articulate, vocal, Black Muslim man who an entire nation paused to pay its respect to. Flowers rained down as his body traveled miles through a red state, in a nation that seems to be currently wrapped in a scratchy blanket of intolerance, racism, fear and hate.
He believed in a God of compassion and kindness. Of Peace and Community. And he was very, very, very clear about what his God, Allah, expected.
“If you love God, you can’t love only some of his children.”
A few days after his death I was listening to Krista Tippet from OnBeing interview Rebecca Solnit. She talked about love like the love Ali spoke of. Ali found his love for all under the banner of his God. Let’s be clear though, God is not the only channel love travels along. Others find, give and share love for the sake of love. Just love. Just love for all. Rebecca pays attention to events we call “disasters” and takes note of the transformation that takes place when ordinary divides and patterns are shattered and people come together and understand we are our brothers keeper. Joy, purposefulness and connectedness arise.
It’s easy to love some groups of people. Usually we love our family. Our parents. Our children. Our partner. We have groups of friends we love, and people in our neighborhood or church.
We know instances where love binds, heals, nurtures, gives life. Rebecca points out there are so many things and people to love besides those in our groups.
So many things and people in the world need love.
“There is so much work love has to do in this world.” Rebecca Solnit
There is so much fear, hate. There is so much persecution, oppression and racism. There is so much violence, injustice, poverty and profound suffering.
How do we step away from those things and walk towards love? Do we want to? Are we able to?
How do we lend a hand to love and get to work in this world? What will it take for our hearts to be as full and giving as the one of a boxer who grew up facing racism every day, won an Olympic medal for his country and then, in his own country was still refused seating in a restaurant because he was Black, who refused to go to war and kill people and went to prison for that, who called all people God’s children.
For all of Ali’s hype, all he wanted was to be remembered in this way:
“I’d like for them to say he took a few cups of love, he took one tablespoon of patience, teaspoon of generosity, one pint of kindness. He took one quart of laughter, one pinch of concern, and then, he mixed willingness with happiness, he added lots of faith, and he stirred it up well, then he spreads it over his span of a lifetime, and he served it to each and every deserving person he met.”
There is Trump. There is Syria. Today there is Orlando. It was Paris and Brussels. It is the refugees drowning by the hundreds. It will be someone else and someplace else where fear, hate, pain and suffering reign rampant.
And there will be more Ali’s, more Berrigan brothers, more Jimmy Carters, more cities like Salt Lake City working to end homelessness, more European countries with 100% literacy. There will be more countries like Switzerland almost totally eliminating poverty, or the UK with the lowest gun related violent deaths. There will be more Icelands where childhood mortality has almost been eliminated. There will be more countries like Canada who open their doors to refugees…..let’s stop calling them migrants shall we? They are not looking for work, they are trying to stay alive..to not be killed by bombs and guns.
If you’re reading this you’re most likely fairly privileged, and you get to have a choice. You have a voice you can use. You have opportunity and resources you can use. Stand side by side with all your brothers and sisters who have only their often unheard voice and help them be heard. Use your voice to stand up to injustice, hate, fear, poverty, violence. Do not become apathetic or unconcerned because you are not affected. Your sister is affected. Your brother is affected. You are a part of this family that is in pain and suffering.
We champion the reason for, and the protection of, the freedoms we enjoy in this country. There is only one problem. Millions of people in this country do not genuinely share in those freedoms.
“There is so much work love has to do in this world.”
Like the familiar adage “Many hands make light work”, let’s join our hands together in and with Love and get to work.