Breakfast, Life Lessons and Gene Stallings
Today was a unique opportunity to leave the house early, and head out to breakfast with a few hundred folks. The 2nd annual FCA breakfast for Northwest Mississippi was this morning and we always enjoy supporting this ministry by being at the breakfast. This year’s special guest speaker was Gene Stallings. Stallings not only played for the legendary head coach Bear Bryant, but also joined his first coaching staff at Alabama when he graduated from Texas A&M. Stallings remarkable career spans several football programs including college teams Texas A&M and Alabama, and in the NFL when he coached with Tom Landry at Dallas, and head coached the Cardinals in both St. Louis and Phoenix. He has received numerous awards and recognition in his lifetime for both his playing and coaching and is a well loved coach for his kind spirit.
He shared today that he started the first FCA program at the University of Alabama, and when he left that Coach Bryant called him to complain about the FCA program. He shared that Coach felt it had made a mess of the team because they were always hugging and being nice to each other. Not long after that though Coach Stallings received another call from Coach Bryant, saying that FCA was the best thing that had happened to Alabama football.
It was wonderful to hear about the work that FCA is involved in here locally, and knowing that the work they do is important all around the country for the lives that are being invested in by coaches who genuinely care about their players and want to help them be better men and women. There are numerous chapters in high schools and colleges around the country and around the world. FCA seeks to engage athletes through coaches and other mentors at their schools and to give them opportunities to develop their faith and share it with other team members in their schools and communities. FCA sponsors camps, retreats and other events throughout the year to help be an encouragement to these athletes.
Coach Stallings also shared quite a bit with us about his son, John Mark - whom he affectionately called Johnny throughout the morning. John Mark had Down Syndrome and was a very present figure with Coach Stallings through his career until John Mark passed away in 2008. A quick internet search showed some really sweet photographs of Coach and his son and you can tell very quickly that he loved him very much. He shared many memories of his son with us today and I was struck by how very genuine and caring Coach is and how very much he misses his son. One very funny story was how he had coached his son to meet for the very first time Coach Tom Landry. It was a shortened practice for the Cowboys that day as it was a day to bring your kids to the workout. So Coach Stallings coached Johnny that he would introduce him to Coach Landry, and he would say “Coach Landry, I’d like you to meet my son, John Mark” and to which he should reply “Nice to meet you Coach Landry”. So they practiced many times and were ready. Coach Stallings introduced Johnny to Coach Landry and said “Coach Landry, I’d like you to meet my son, John Mark” to which Johnny replied - “Hi Tom!” Such a sweet memory and such a memorable moment.
Coach also shared that he was done with complaining. Nothing good ever came from it anyway, and so he was done with complaining. He shared with us that the night before John Mark passed away - he could tell he wasn’t feeling well as he was trying to sleep. He was very restless and having trouble breathing. Coach checked his oxygen saturation levels and soon realized that with it being in the low 60’s that John Mark was in serious trouble. When he asked John Mark how he was doing though, he replied that he was fine. You see John Mark never complained about anything and if anyone really had the right to complain it should be John Mark who had such difficulty breathing at that time. Perhaps what stuck with me most today is he shared that we all need to share just a bit of kindness with people today. He said that it can be just a little thing for us to do to be kind to someone today but it can be everything to that person we share the kindness with. Of course the story that went along with this point was also about his dear son, John Mark. He encouraged us to slow down and to reach out in kindness to others around us.
Ironically, as I caught up just a little while later on the different emails, and tweets etc. I saw a really beautiful tweet from Gretchen Carlson, Fox News reporter and TV host. She has been sharing recently some encouraging words and tweets and today she tweeted -
Sometimes its tough! So…#killemwithkindsness with the following picture
So today- after hearing about kindness twice before 9am - I thought a little more about treating others with more kindness and thinking that perhaps the greatest thing we can do for friend, family or stranger is to be just be kind! It doesn't cost us anything but sometimes a bit of time and effort, but it can make a world of difference to someone else!