I was sad to hear about the death of Muhammed Ali last week. I’m not a boxing fan, but I like many others across the world knew him from the iconic picture of him in the boxing ring with Sonny Liston – usually with the quote ‘Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee’ imprinted on or next to it.
Over the weekend however, I learned more about him, and his story. I had known he was Muslim. I hadn’t known that he hadn’t been born into a family who were also Muslim. To be honest, I don’t think I was fully aware that he had been born in America. I hadn’t known that he had taken a stand against the Vietnam War. I felt a strange sense of pride when I learned that. There were quotes and picture memes – screenshots of his memoir, pictures of him sitting alongside Malcolm X and other icons. Of course the screenshot of the world’s most hated US Presidential Candidate’s tweets showing his ignorance or hypocrisy (hard to tell which).
But one really struck me.
“Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here”
I didn’t pay much attention to Muhammed Ali, but what strikes me looking back with the media commentary on his life, is that he was a man who walked his talk. He stood up for his beliefs – even if it cost him.
There’s a running joke amongst my Ranger Guides about ‘my wages’ as a Girlguiding leader. It’s a big part of my life, my volunteer work with Girlguiding, and when people see the amount of work it takes because the organisation runs as professionally as possible – they are shocked at the amount of responsibilities I have to take on. Permission forms, updating records, keeping accounts, creating and sticking to budgets, organising trips, contacting members and their guardians, writing risk assessments for activities. This past term I’ve been mentoring one of the Young Leaders (now an adult volunteer) through the first module of her leadership qualification. At the weekend, two worlds collided as the Rangers came to my work for a special party we’d organised for the centenary. As we went through the details at our meeting a few days before hand and I explained I was the employee who would be running their party they laughed and pointed out “This is the first time you’re going to get paid for your work with Girlguiding!” To be honest, it hadn’t occurred to me, I would have happily worked the hour for free, and in fact did stay late the night before, and came in early the following morning to prepare everything.
This last year, and in the last couple of months in particular, it has been tough to keep going and I’ve wanted to turn around and quit volunteering for a variety of reasons. But I keep going back because there are those moments where something transcends and I can’t imagine not being a cheerleader for the girls I work with 2-3 evenings a week. And I think back to when I was the girl that leaders were encouraging to take hold of this or that opportunity Girlguiding could offer me, or bringing a group of my fellow Guides to cheer me on in something.
Someone served me. And now I’m serving the next generation. I’m basically paying back what I earned all those years ago. I’m earning my keep on this earth.
One day I’m going to die, and though it won’t be covered in the media like Muhammed Ali’s death has been, I still hope people will remember me as someone who stood up for what she believed in, and walked her talk and was kind to other people.