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Muhammad Ali Philanthropy and Me #MuhammadAli #GOAT #ALI

Ali quote Make the days countThe moment I saw the news, I knew I would have to write about Ali, about our connections however tenuous. At first it was impossible to put my thoughts together. All week long news feeds, photos, quotes, and videos about him drew me away from whatever else I was working on. My last post about the connections I keep seeing between world events and my life was in my mind (Inside the UCLA Shooting).

When as a child I heard Muhammad Ali say he was “The Greatest” I believed him. Why wouldn’t I? My Mom and Dad, two of the greatest people I knew, were both born and raised in Louisville. My grandmothers both lived there where I spent numerous holidays and weeks of summer vacations. My brother watched Ali’s fights, rooting for the most famous of Louisville’s favored sons. Great people came from Louisville. Why not the G.O.A.T. (Greatest Of All Time)?

Born January 17, 1942, Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr. was 13 months older than my father. I grew up thinking they attended the same school, or that perhaps my grandmother, a local teacher, taught young Cassius who didn’t change his name till 1964. As it turns out, I was wrong on both counts. My youthful imagination already made stories. Until hearing about Ali, it had never occurred to me that you could change your name to anything you wanted. To me that was pretty darn cool. Despite my youthful error, there are a couple of connections.

Screen Shot 2016-06-10 at 10.49.18 AMAngry about a stolen bike, Cassius ran into a local gym where cops worked out. Telling Sergeant Joe Martin how he wanted to whip the thief, Martin told the 86 pound 12-year-old that he should learn how to fight first, and Martin became his first trainer taking him up to his Golden Gloves days when my father first hear of him. Since my grandfather was the superintendent of the traffic division, he was Officer Martin’s supervisor at some point earlier in his law enforcement career.

Hearing this story I had to wonder, was this the kind of encounter a black youth in 1954 expected to have in a gym full of cops? Kentucky is a mid-southern state, and Louisville was its largest city. Experience in Europe has shown me that some Europeans think the movie “Selma” represents what all of America was like in 1965. Obviously that’s not so, even if Americans of subsequent generations think pretty much the same thing. Consider Louisville in 1957 as my father described it:

Certainly, I remember the news coverage, and the brutality of the Alabama police, but south Alabama is so far removed from Kentucky, and I don’t mean just in road distance: I mean culturally as well….In Louisville…the schools were desegregated in 1957 without incident (to my knowledge).  I was in the seventh grade at Shawnee Junior High, and the integration of black kids into our classes, lunchrooms, and gym were a non event.

15-year-old Cassius must have had a slightly different experience of racism from those raised in the deep south. Certainly whites-only restaurants persisted, like the one Ali was turned away from not long after returning home with his 1960 Olympic gold medal. (He said the medal was lost and not thrown into the Ohio River in anger, debunking an oft-repeated urban legend).

Outside the ring, Ali’s refusal to submit to the Vietnam draft was one of the biggest news stories of his young career. My father remembers, “He and I both had to appear for our draft physical on the same day. The only difference was that I was standing in line with fifty or sixty other guys in our underwear waiting to see the doctor, when he came down the hall with his attorney, and went right in. He was already famous by then.” Gee, I hope they didn’t interrupts anybody…coughing.

Screen Shot 2016-06-12 at 11.13.04 PMThe coverage of Ali’s boxing career and rise to fame was everywhere on the web this last week. What strikes me, though, is what he did with that fame and admiration. Certainly he used it in the civil rights movement. Some speculate that it was his first trip to Africa that opened his eyes to his larger world-wide influence. His “Rumble in the Jungle” against George Foreman in Kinshasa (where we adopted our younger sons) is humorously titled in my opinion when I think of how large the city was even at that time. He road through the streets sitting behind the sunroof of a slow-moving vehicle, hands stretching out to meet the thousands reaching for him. That I cannot relate to.

However, I know what it’s like for Africa to open your heart, take a piece, and never return it. Co-founding Future Hope Africa in the DR Congo and sponsoring two Ethiopian children’s education and welfare through Compassion International are two of the ways I answered the call to make a difference.

Ali answered a call as well, and I wish there was more information on Muhammad Ali’s philanthropy work being tagged and shared. That is perhaps where his greatest legacy remains. In his retirement, Ali devoted much of his time to philanthropy. Over the years he supported the Special Olympics and the Make-A-Wish Foundation, among other organizations. He traveled to numerous countries, including Mexico and Morocco, to help those in need.Screen Shot 2016-06-12 at 11.14.56 PM

Mr. Ali first came to the UN in 1978 to address the UN Special Committee against Apartheid with a message of peace and spirituality. He brings people from all races together by preaching “healing” to everyone irrespective of race, religion or age. Over the years Mr. Ali has been a relentless advocate for people in need and a significant humanitarian actor in the developing world, supporting relief and development initiatives and hand-delivering food and medical supplies to hospitals, street children and orphanages in Africa and Asia. (From Ali’s “United Nations Messenger of Peace” page)

Muhammad Ali became an ambassador for peace beginning in 1985, when he flew to Lebanon to secure the release of four hostages. Ali also has made goodwill missions to Afghanistan and North Korea; delivered over $1 million in medical aid to Cuba; traveled to Iraq to secure the release of 15 United States hostages during the first Gulf War; and journeyed to South Africa to meet Nelson Mandela upon his release from prison.(Look To the Stars)

Muhammad Ali and Michael J. Fox

Muhammad Ali and Michael J. Fox

When Ali announced in 1984 that he had Parkinson’s disease, he entered another fight. You may remember that Michael J. Fox, who was diagnosed in 1991, did a series of commercials with Ali that juxtaposed the big man and the small both working toward a cure. That’s the video I’d like to share with you. Living in Arizona, Ali also raised funds for Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center in Phoenix. Fox called Ali “a peaceful warrior.”

In 2005, Ali received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President George W. Bush. He also opened the Muhammad Ali Center in his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky, that same year. “I am an ordinary man who worked hard to develop the talent I was given,” he said. “Many fans wanted to build a museum to acknowledge my achievements. I wanted more than a building to house my memorabilia. I wanted a place that would inspire people to be the best that they could be at whatever they chose to do, and to encourage them to be respectful of one another.”

About a week and half ago I was browsing the sports section of our international school library in The Netherlands picking out books for my children to read this summer. A few days later we woke to the news that Muhammad Ali had died. “I just brought a biography home for the kids to read about him,” I said. My husband responded to my angst with, “You didn’t kill him by checking out that book.” What a coincidence though.

Screen Shot 2016-06-12 at 11.22.50 PMMany of my cousins still live in Louisville, and they took their children to stand along the funeral route Friday and then posted photos of the historical procession to Facebook. Muhammad Ali is buried in Louisville’s Cave Hill National Cemetery, a last crossroads for us.

In college I remember navigating the 296-acre cemetery, taking lefts at most forks in the narrow road till I reached a right-hand turn near the brick, back wall. From that winding bit of pavement, I spotted my grandmother’s stone, stopped the car, and laid flowers before wandering to look for nearby relatives.

Perhaps the next time I visit I’ll wander a bit farther, see the grotto, take my children to feed the ducks at the pond, and pay my respects at the grave of Muhammad Ali. I will tell them how he was much more than a boxer, how he fought for the rights of himself and others, how he used his fame to help poor and oppressed people around the world, and how The Greatest defined being great.

During his boxing days Ali said, “I float like a butterfly and sting like a bee.” It’s one of his most famous quotes. I like this other one better myself.  Hana Ali repeated these oft spoken words of her father.

“Nothing makes us greater than the next person but the heart. If you want to be greater than someone than you have to have a great heart.” –Muhammad Ali

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Kristin King is a native of Kentucky, an author, and co-founder of Future Hope Africa. She is working on her third novel and closely monitoring the crowdfundraiser her nonprofit is running for Vacation Bible School in the Congo where for a limited time your gift will be doubled! She encourages others to “answer your call” whatever it may be.

 

 

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Posted by on June 12, 2016 in In The News, Moments

 

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An Arab, a Dutchman, a Chinaman and My Error

You can help 3x as many children go to VBS in Congo this summer just by a SHARE!

You can help 3x as many children go to VBS in Congo this summer just by a SHARE!

No, this isn’t the beginning of a joke. It is a key insight into the life we’re living as expats in the multinational area surrounding The Hague.

At dinner this week, the Arab gentleman to my left discovered his Chinese colleague across the table has only one child, a son, as does the Dutch couple across from me. The Arab has five daughters. All were variously surprised by the fact that my husband and I have four sons.

“All boys!”

“Such a large family for America!”

“Isn’t one or two more the case?”

I commented that larger families were not uncommon in the military.

“Why is that?”

Although I’m not really sure, I speculated for them that the job security, housing, and health care probably played into it. Later, though, I realized my error.

Certainly these benefits have a role in the decision to have more children, but I think a deeper more fundamental aspect of the human condition is at play. My eldest Ethiopian son has at least 8 brothers and sisters somewhere, and families with 8-12 siblings were not uncommon in his country of birth. If you’ve ever toured the great home of a common family from a by gone century (especially in the US), you were probably amazed when told the number of children the woman of the house gave birth to; somewhere I remember being shocked by a number as high as 21.

How many of those babies lived to become adults?

Of the adults, how many died before the age of 40?

Our proximity to death, the frequency with which we experience it both first hand and through our neighbors, the fact of mortality which cannot be ignored day-to-day drives family growth, I think. Perhaps I am in error again. Perhaps too many variables are at play in these life decisions to consider in a simple blog post.

The other day my husband was wondering about friends nearing retirement who choose career and lifestyle over having children. “Do you think they regret it now?” he mused. We’ve known several couples with no children of their own who nonetheless take on vital roles in the lives of children through service organizations, churches, and nieces and nephews as well. Engaging the next generation in these ways can be very fulfilling and part of our nonprofit work in Africa.

Still, an old proverb says “Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, So are the children of one’s youth. How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.” Quivers of the time reportedly held five arrows as a rule, yet we only have four. Hmm. Yes, only God knows what all influences our decisions.

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Kristin King is an author and nonprofit co-founder currently living in Holland. She is currently promoting her first crowdfunded project. Please stop by Congo VBS 2016 and join the crowd.

 
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Posted by on June 1, 2016 in Living in Holland, Moments

 

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Soldier’s Goodbye

Screen Shot 2015-07-27 at 3.04.27 PM(Guest Post by Ryan King)

When I returned from my first tour in Afghanistan in late 2005 I was having a hard time relaxing. I felt tense and on edge most of time. They told us this was common post-deployment behavior and would slowly go away. Someone recommended simply having ‘alone time’ or ‘relax time.’ It seemed ridiculously simple, but I tried it anyway. I would sit outside alone and simply relax for an hour or so a week. Sometimes it was with a cigar or a pipe or a beverage. Alone time became a once a week routine that I have kept up for over a decade. But I wasn’t really alone. At least not until tonight.

Argos became a part of our family in 2003 while we were living in Belgium. We also already had an eight year old white German shepherd who was showing signs of age. My wife and I decided it would be good to get another dog and friends of ours allowed us to adopt their dog when they were unable to keep Argos. He and our shepherd Angel were instant friends. They played and romped and were constant companions. Our old shepherd dog became young again and lasted another five years. Argos saved Angel’s life…at least for a little while.

Argos was a golden Labrador/golden retriever mix who was always friendly and filled with energy. A friend of mine dubbed Argos “Full Throttle” and the name couldn’t have been more apt. He loved to get attention from anyone and was so eager to please. He never bit anyone or barked in anger…but he would lick you to death sometimes.

Yet, he was my constant companion during nearly a decade of alone time. He would sit with me quietly and sniff the air. On occasion he would bring me a ball and insist that I throw it for him to retrieve. Even last Sunday, our final alone time together it turned out, he brought me a ball a few times and his weary eyes told me what he wanted. I tossed the ball for him and he slowly walked over to it, bent down and picked it up in his soft mouth, and then slowly walked back over to me to repeat the routine.

Tonight was the first alone time without my friend and near constant companion. I keenly felt the aloneness and realized it had never been alone time after all. Argos, I miss you.

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Ryan King is a career army officer with multiple combat tours who continues to serve in the military. He has lived, worked, and traveled throughout Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. He writes post-apocalyptic, dystopian, thriller, horror, and action short stories, short novels, and novels.

Argos earlier this year, his first Holland Spring also his last.

Argos earlier this year, his first Holland Spring also his last.

 
 

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Mommy’s Sleeping In the Kitchen With the Dogs

With four boys in tow we moved into our assigned housing in the Netherlands and were shocked by two things. One, the place was larger than anything I ever expected in Europe–especially Holland. Two, there were three floors of wall-to-wall pale cream carpet. First thought…wonder how much carpet costs in Europe, since there’s no way we’re getting out of here without paying for at least part of that stuff.

Our dog, Argos, is a golden lab, born in Belgium, lived in Maryland and now residing in The Netherlands.

Our dog, Argos, is a golden lab, born in Belgium, lived in Maryland and now residing in The Netherlands.

The kitchen has large squares of tile pretty much the same color except for the occasional blood splatter.  See, it’s not my sons who have had the worst spills. They are only allowed water upstairs. It’s not the random marker bleed or crushed ink pen that has me sleeping in the kitchen. It’s the blood our family dog is coughing up.

The vet thinks the smoke dispersed across his lungs on the xray is cancer, and since Argos is 12 years old the recommendation is not to open our pet up to confirm. Instead we apply treatment for the other ailments our dog might have. If one of those works, then we confirm he has pneumonia complicated by an infection or a fungus.

The antibiotics give mixed results. Nothing happened at first, then he had a few good days which turned to not so good as the medication was about to run out. We bought more. The fungal medicine comes in a day, and we hope, pray and focus on the possibility a few days of the treatment will bear remarkable improvement.

Meanwhile I am ever so glad I splurged to get the peroxide with the spray top. Between that, the Resolve, and the Scotch Guard I put down when we moved in, you won’t find any spots so far.

A few days ago our dog barely coughed all day and slept on a big blanket spread out for him by our bed. Tonight though his breathing sounds like he’s running hard even when laying still. And the bloody spittle on the edge of his muzzle is the brightest red substance ever–oxygenated hemoglobin straight from the lungs beats grade-school acrylic paints hands down.

No matter what happens in the night, our dog has me within arm’s reach.

UPDATE: Argos died at 6am the morning after I wrote this. RIP Beloved Pet. You are missed.

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 Kristin King is an animal lover, author, publisher and co-founder of the nonprofit Future Hope Africa which is based in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. She is from Kentucky (USA) and lives as an expat in Holland.

 
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Posted by on July 25, 2015 in Moments

 

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Emu and Wallaby, Friend or Foe? (All Creatures Great and Small…)

Not something you see every day.–Kristin

 
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Posted by on June 29, 2015 in Moments, Videos

 

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Holland Expat – Surreal Moment

Hoping for a deal on blue willow bowls...

Hoping for a deal on blue willow bowls…

Dishes get broken. This is a fact of life. Our family eats lots of cereals and soups. We use a LOT of bowls. When another of the everyday dishes we registered for when we got married broke this week, my husband said, “Go ahead and get some new ones.”

Hmm. The last time I bought blue willow bowls they were $5 each. The same make is $16 online now. Yikes! Occasionally though, the odd item will turn up at antique or 2nd hand stores. So I thought a quick trip to my local Antique and Vintage shop was in order.

Strange day.

Sun on the windshield when I headed out turned to slanting wind. Rain would follow–maybe hail like the day before.

In the shop there were no bowls in my pattern or anything with blue. But there were 3 bowls the right size with a different bird on each. The shop keeper set them on the counter for me.

“How much are they?”

He inspected the bottom where it said dishwasher safe. “You take them,” he got out paper to wrap them up.

“How much are they?” slower this time. Language and translation is sometimes an issue.

“You like?”

...surreal deal on these bird bowls. "Tjilp tjilp" is what birds say in Dutch. Cheep cheep!

…surreal deal on these bird bowls. “Tjilp tjilp” is what birds say in Dutch. Cheep cheep!

“Well yeah, I prefer blue, but the birds are nice,” I said.

“You take them.”

Hmm. I could wait this out. The prices here are reasonable all around, so I waited for the paper wrapping and bagging to be done when I was sure he would tell me how much I owed. Hands down this beats the “would you like large fried with that” suggestive sell I learned back in the day.

Finally he passed me the bag. Said nothing.

I looked around. “Thank you??” I asked in Dutch.

“You’re welcome,” he turned to other matters.

Huh. I left the shop with my–not purchases–free gifts? I was still trying to work out what happened. I don’t think I’ve ever bought anything there before, certainly no large purchases. Huh.

The wind knocked my hair about with a light spray of water. My mind cannot seem to get past this experience. “What happened?” it asks.

“I think the antique shop just gave me free bowls because they were ‘too new’ for them. Has to be some reason, right?”

Surreal Holland.

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Kristin King is an author, publisher, and expat living in Holland.

 

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Presidents’ Day Prayer

Thomas Jefferson Collectible Stamp

Thomas Jefferson Collectible Stamp

Thomas Jefferson’s

A Prayer for the Nation

Almighty God, Who has given us this good land for our heritage; We humbly beseech Thee that we may always prove ourselves a people mindful of Thy favor and glad to do Thy will. Bless our land with honorable ministry, sound learning, and pure manners. Save us from violence, discord, and confusion, from pride and arrogance, and from every evil way. Defend our liberties, and fashion into one united people, the multitude brought hither out of many kindreds and tongues. Endow with Thy spirit of wisdom those whom in Thy name we entrust the authority of government, that there may be justice and peace at home, and that through obedience to Thy law, we may show forth Thy praise among the nations of the earth. In time of prosperity fill our hearts with thankfulness, and in the day of trouble, suffer not our trust in Thee to fail; all of which we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

–Washington D.C., March 4, 1801

Amen.

 

More prayers of US Presidents available on Beliefnet.com.

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Kristin King is an author and publisher. Her top sellers are “Unsinkable Vampire” and “Cain’s Coven,” and her latest novel the Begotten Bloods Series is Death Taint. Her imprint Three Kings Publishing can be found here. Three Kings is a Mom & Pop publisher of Christian writers (not necessarily Christian books).

 
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Posted by on February 16, 2015 in Moments

 

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