Joe Martin was a police officer in 1950s America. An America still segregated along racial lines in many respects.
A 12 year old boy had his bike stolen one night and he wanted to report his bike stolen. Someone said, "Go find Joe Martin. He's a police officer."
Any white police officer would be treated with suspicion by any teenager, let alone a black teenager in the 1950s.
This 12 year old boy found Joe Martin and the first thing this boy said to the police officer was, "I'm going to whup whoever stole my bike."
That boy was a young Cassius Clay, we now remember him as Muhammad Ali- the Greatest.
Joe Martin taught the young Clay how to box, not to fight. Martin famously said to the young Clay, "Well, you better learn how to fight before you start challenging people you're going to whup."
This was the only interracial gym in Louisville and Martin was criticised for training black kids, but he never listened to the criticism. He became Clay's coach for 6 years of his amateur career.
A kind gesture, a kind word, a gentle nudge in the right direction at the right time "saved" the young Clay. Martin put aside the prejudice of the day and found he had something in common with the young man who became the greatest sportsman on the planet.
They both had a love of boxing, but both Martin and Ali are remembered for standing up for their beliefs and believing that everyone should have an equal opportunity and should be afforded that, not matter what race or religion.
Australian Rules Football in Alice Springs
This reminds me of my 4 years playing Australian Rules football in Alice Springs. Alice Springs is often in the media for the wrong reasons. Many people may not want to admit it, but there are racial divides in Alice Springs. There are social issues, just like any major city.
My involvement with many indigenous kids at my school in Alice Springs gave me the confidence to be bold and ask the players and coaches at South Alice Springs (the Mighty Roos! Supies forever!), if I could join their club.
They are an indigenous club and being one of only two "whitefellas" at the club was quite daunting. They accepted me, encouraged me and respected me. They taught me about a culture I have enjoyed the chance to understand. I listened to some stories of injustice, but saw a willingness to forgive, move on, strengthen family and make a go of reconciliation.
I'm a different person because of the way I was treated in my time at the South Alice Springs Roos. I've learnt that tolerance and respect should be based on a person's character, not the colour of their skin. Muhammad Ali became a different person because someone saw beyond the colour of skin, and saw greatness.
Who can you inspire today? Who is God going to bring across your path today? The person who is easiest to ignore and push away could be the very person God wants you to guide and encourage on their journey. When you look past the exterior of the person, their background and even what they say, you may just find the opportunity to unlock the champion within!
Russell Modlin teaches English and Physical Education at a Christian School on the Sunshine Coast. He is married to Belinda and they have three children.
Russell Modlin's archive of previous article can be found at www.pressserviceinternational.org/russell-modlin.html