The GREATEST Story?
by John Mooy
It was a rather unassuming day when I pulled into the parking lot at the grocery store. There weren’t many people there, so I had an unlimited number of spaces from which to choose and park the truck. I went with routine and parked where I usually do.
I looked over and the gentleman in the vehicle next to me was seated in the driver’s seat and the hood on his vehicle was up. I dare say there are few people there who know less about the operation of the motor than myself. I caught his attention and asked if his battery might be dead. He responded that it might be. So, I told him I had jumper cables, and we could give them a try. “Worth a try,” he said.
As we hooked up the cables to the batteries we started talking. Turns out this fellow’s name was Solomon, and he was from Berrien Springs. Originally, he was from the Bahamas which accounted for the wonderfully melodic sound of his voice and accent. I already felt accomplished having correctly connected the cables and told him we were pressing the extent of my auto knowledge.
While we waited for his battery to hopefully charge, we again began to talk. If you’ve ever read this column before you’ll know that I’m always interested in other people’s stories. Turns out Solomon had one of interest.
He asked me if I was from South Haven and I said, “yes.” During the school year I work two days a week at Hope College. He said, “I taught at the college level as well.” So, our stories centered in part on our educational backgrounds. I told Solomon that years ago I had taught with a fellow from Berrien Springs by the name of Bill Johnson. Solomon indicated he had been in Berrien Springs for some thirty years, but the name didn’t sound familiar to him.
I told him that when I was a boy growing up in Marcellus during the basketball tournament one year, we played Berrien Springs. If I recall correctly your team nickname is the Shamrocks. “That’s right,” he said.
I said to Solomon, “let me try you on the only other thing I know about Berrien Springs. Do you know anything about their most famous citizen, Muhammad Ali?”
Solomon laughed and said, “He was my neighbor. And he was a very fine neighbor.”
I could tell by the tone of his voice he had become very fond of Ali. He said he saw him all the time and they usually had a conversation.
The Greatest – Muhammad Ali
I suggested that Ali had become quite a humanitarian and did many, many things that no one knew about. I told him the one story I knew about Ali in which a second-grade teacher at Hollywood elementary school close to Berrien Springs invited him to come to their classroom on Thursday when they practiced their reading. She had seen Ali at the grocery store and it took all of her courage to approach him and speak to him. So, one Thursday before school she was seated at her desk when there was a knock on the door. It was Ali who came in and spent the entire day with the class. He had a way with young people and would often share magic tricks with them. Ali had quite a sense of humor as well.
We ended our conversation and suggested it would be enjoyable to have additional conversations. I found Solomon to be an interesting individual. A gentleman.
As for our chance meeting? It was the GREATEST.
Have a great week, Marcellus,
you’re the best. Keep those jumper
cables in your car. You never know what
they might start.