Sting like a bee,
the hands can’t hit what the eyes can’t see."*
This rhyme is known by most everyone in the world who has experienced the legend that is known as Mohammad Ali. This past Friday evening, surrounded by his family, he succumbed to the effects of Parkinson’s disease. His physical presence is gone but his legacy will live on in the hearts and minds of people worldwide.
So why does this matter to me? Of course Ali is part of my history growing up and he was quite a character but what resonates with me is the importance of his words. Words are what we use to voice what we know, think and feel. They can be used as instructive, complimentary, hurtful, loving or even to boast about being the “greatest” as Ali did repeatedly. Why did Ali’s words matter so much? He spoke with a cavalier attitude that was at times outrageous but engaging and believable. He also backed up his words with actions. He was the “greatest” and held the title of Heavyweight World Champion three times. Because of his actions, his words meant something. It didn’t take Foreman long to realize that Ali’s words were not just rhetoric but true.
It is no different with our regular lives and the words we speak. They can seem to be words of spoken in love, with authority, and with grace but soon identified as meaningless if they are not followed up with actions. I picture how we use our words as a garden of beautiful flowers. When my teenage daughter, Sara, decided to start a flower garden, she picked out the seeds of colorful flowers, she plowed the soil and planted the seeds of her choice. For the first few weeks, she diligently watered and weeded the garden without fail. As time went on, the summer days grew hot and dry, and the mosquitoes became larger and hungrier, so that the joy she felt at the start of this garden project waned considerably. Without the proper water and weeding, it soon became hard to differentiate between the weeds and the flowers in her garden. No amount of cajoling or hollering could get Sara into the garden to tend to the mess it had become. Without follow-through of weeding and watering, the garden project ended in neglect and disarray rather than the colorful flowers that were pictured on the seed packets. It is the same with words. This analogy can be used in our daily lives. In order for our word gardens to grow and prosper, we need to weed, water and tend to them so they develop into beautiful flowers. Recently, I read a Hallmark greeting card, which gave a thoughtful way of recognizing someone special with these words,
If life is measured by the way we live--
the way we serve, the way we give…
If life is measured by the words we say--
the love expressed along the way…
If life is measured by the smiles we share--
the kindnesses, that we care…
Then your life’s measure is clearly known,
for these are all of the things you’ve shown.
What an awesome sentiment for someone to give to a friend or family member who is being recognized as someone known by their actions to serve, give, love, and for their kindness. According to this sentiment, the recipient of this card has tended, watered and weeded their garden, which then developed into a beautiful flower garden. Their words were known as true and came to life for the people around them. Just like Ali, our words matter even if we are not known as “the greatest,” we are known by what we do, and say, which are made real by our actions. Ali was not questioned about his authentic words because he said it, meant it and lived it. Can people say the same about us?