40 Years in America

Paul Rosenbaum

It was well known in the region I fundraised in, during 1976-1978, that Father wanted us to be proud of the church, and for the most part we all wore our badges. Now I was always losing mine, which isnít unusual, because Iíve always had a hard time with certain material things. (Happily, by now Iíve overcome the habit of losing badges, wallets, watches and driverís licenses.)

Anyway, one day I was fundraising, selling candles in downtown Houston. I remember it was a cool, sunny, early winter morning, and something told me to go across the street and fundraise in the old charming Rice Hotel. I walked into the lobby, and even though I didnít have my glasses on (I lost them, I think), I could just feel that somebody important was sitting on one of the lounge chairs in the lobby. Maybe a politician; there were lots of bodyguards around.

I noticed that it was Muhammed Ali, donít ask me how, my vision was very blurry, but spirit world must have told me or something like that -- I knew it was him. I wanted to get his attention and I wanted to get him to buy a candle. Maybe I thought it would be one heck of a testimony when I got back in the van.

Anyway, I just kind of sidled up to him, in my invisible sort of way and doing my very best Howard Cosell voice, I said, "Mr. Ali, you are the greatest, sir, yes, you are the greatest! How about buying a candle for our local Christian youth counseling center?"

He just turned, ever so slightly, and looked me right in the eye, and said, "Who you selling these for?" I was stopped right in my tracks. I thought heíd laugh at my Howard Cosell voice, but instead he was challenging me to stand up for what I believed. I said I was fundraising for a local Christian Youth center, but didnít say Unification Church or Rev. Moon. But I knew thatís what he was asking me, and funny thing is, I knew he knew as well. He smelled the candles and picked two, a blue one and a green one, I think, and asked one of his goons to pay me. Which they did, but it took some time, cause all they carried were twenties and hundreds. And two candles was just five bucks.

What happened that morning in Texas stayed with me, all these long years later. Muhammed Ali asked me, "Really? Is that who youíre fundraising for?" and I, who was well practiced in defending my line, as I thought it was the absolute truth, and should have been good enough for anyone to make a "good condition" of buying, said, "Yes, thatís really who Iím doing this for." But in my heart, at the time, I said, "No, Iím doing this for Rev. Moon and the Unification Church!!!" Thatís what my heart said, but thatís not what came out of my mouth.

I found out later, from a sister I knew well, that Muhammed Ali really respected True Father and our movement, and often challenged our fundraisers to speak up and be proud of who we were. Muhammed Ali himself, when told that he was the greatest, before the sports media was known to have said, "No, I am not the greatest. Reverend Moon, now, he is the greatest!!!"

Just think, if Iíd been as honest with my mouth that day in the Rice Hotel lobby, maybe Muhammed Ali would have said that to me. Instead he only took a whiff of my candles and paid five dollars. But it sobered me up, and I have to say that from that time onward, I sought to wear my ID badge, and I really respected the brothers and sisters who flaunted that. After all, this was the Bible Belt, so standing up for what you believed was not always the most popular thing to do.

Sometimes you wound up with a fundamental Christian youth group praying for you, standing around you in a circle, like a Jesus Coven, speaking in tongues and praying for Satan to be driven from you, in the mighty name of Jeesuhhsss!! It used to make me realize how miserable Jesus must have felt when they did that. Anyway, the brother whom I loved the most in our region was Howie Comis. This brother would wear a baseball cap that had S.M.MOON written on it in big gold or white letters. He also wore a big T-shirt that said "IíM WITH MOON" emblazoned on it. And what was amazing, he said, was that he received almost no persecution. When he just wore the thing and went up to people, it was like taking all the negativity away from them.

Because he advertised his presence, people almost always, after some time, just said nothing negative, and almost always bought whatever he was fundraising with. He taught me a big lesson, big time. Whenever I want a smile, I can always remember Howie Comis. He was one amazing saint.

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