George Foreman's promise to God
I'm from Houston, Texas, and proud of it. Back when I was growing up, Houston didn't show up in the news a whole lot. We had a Texan—Lyndon B. Johnson—as president for a while, and we had the Astrodome.
But in general we weren't all that used to making headlines. So one of my greatest sources of pride as a professional boxer was being able to represent my hometown to the world. With every opponent I put on the canvas, I felt like I was putting Houston on the map.
These days, I live a quieter life as pastor of the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ, only a few miles from the neighborhood where I grew up. My congregation is small—about 150 people most Sundays—and that's just the way I like it. In my new life, the Lord has called me to serve him with humility. It's a role I treasure and work at.
But I still have my hometown pride—especially since 2005, when Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast. Katrina put Houston in headlines around the country and around the world. It also gave this city challenges it had never seen before. Challenges so great that many people wondered if we'd make it through in one piece.
During my boxing career I conquered most of the challenges I faced in the ring. But the challenge of being genuinely happy was another matter. In 1974, when I fought Muhammad Ali in Africa, I received a five million-dollar paycheck—and I lost the fight!
But if you think that that five million made me happy, think again. I've been poor with millions of dollars, and I've been rich when I was broke. Money never gave me any real joy, but with God in my heart I'm a rich man no matter what.
Katrina underlined that for me. It taught all of us here in Houston that no matter how good you have it in this life, it could be gone in a second. A single storm can sweep through and take it all away. But if you've got God, you'll be okay.
Here are four things I want you to remember when you have to face down adversity, four things that have helped me:
1. Giving Helps Everybody
"It's more blessed to give than to receive." I used to hear that all the time as a kid, but believe me, I didn't buy it. About the only thing I enjoyed giving with regularity back then was a punch.
But today I know that it is more blessed to give than to receive. And the blessing lies in how it makes you feel. Every good feeling in life passes—from enjoying a delicious meal to becoming heavyweight champion of the world. (I can personally vouch for the truth of both those statements.) But the feeling you get from helping someone else is different. It lasts.
I remember very well the day I discovered this. It was shortly after I'd regained the title of heavyweight champion of the world at age 45 back in 1994. I was driving along when I passed a cousin of mine who was walking down the street. I pulled over and picked him up. "How are you doing today?" I asked him.
"Pretty good. I'm looking for a job and I'm sure I'll find one. I just wish I had a car." Right then and there I drove my cousin to my house and gave him one of my cars. He was so grateful, and so happy. And seeing how much help I'd been to him made me happy. I still get joy when I think about it, and when I think about how I was blessed to be in a position to help him.
I'm not the only one who knows this secret. One Sunday soon after the evacuees came to the Astrodome, I looked out at my congregation and saw a whole lot of new faces. I knew why. My congregation was taking people into their homes and bringing them to church. Some of them were even wearing clothes that I recognized.