There is an old saying in Texas – “Big hat, no cattle” – and it applies to lots of folks in this country whose words and appearance don’t always tell the real story about the person. It’s easy for a man to put on a good show, but have very little of substance in his daily walk that backs up the rhetoric. We can visualize a man wearing a huge Stetson hat, but having no real connection with a cattle ranch and doing very little to benefit his fellow man.
I heard a tremendous talk last month by Gene Stallings at a local charity event in Montgomery that I wish I could share in its entirety with our readers. Coach Stallings, who had a legendary career both as a player and coach, gave one of the most inspiring and touching talks that I have ever heard. The man, who played and coached under the legendary Paul “Bear” Bryant, spoke to “women of influence,” a group whose sole mission is to help children. Coach Stallings’ life story is one that can be summarized by saying the man wears a Big Hat and also has lots of cattle. In fact, he actually lives on a ranch in Texas. Gene Stallings, without a doubt, is the real deal!
Even though Coach Stallings was an outstanding coach, winning the National Championship at Alabama in 1992, being selected as Coach of the Year and being elected to the National Football Hall of Fame, his talk centered largely on his relationship with his son, John Mark, who was born with Down Syndrome. Johnny, as he was called by family and friends, was an example of a person who greatly exceeded all expectations for him. The relationship between Coach Stallings and his son was more than just a special one, it was truly a gift from God. There is no telling what effect this relationship has had on thousands of folks around the country who heard stories of how a famous football coach, one of the “Junction Boys,” put his relationship with his son, Johnny, who was never able to count to ten, but could remember all of the names of folks he met without any difficulty, at the top of his list of priorities. Coach Stallings said every night he would sit on Johnny’s bed and would hear his son ask: “Pop, what are me and you going to do tomorrow?” Johnny, who died at the age of 46 in 2008, left a rich legacy which is still inspiring and motivating folks all across the country.
I could have listened to Coach Stallings for hours that night and never gotten tired or distracted. His message was one that all parents, and especially fathers, need to hear. Coach Stallings talked about such important things as respecting folks regardless of who they are or what their status is in life, the need for developing a work ethic in your children, and the need for a real and strong relationship with God. In fact, the legendary coach said on more than one occasion that knowing where you will spend eternity is the most important thing of all to any person.
As we approach the Christmas season, my prayer for each of us is that we will make our family’s well-being a top priority for the holidays. Hopefully, the true meaning of Christmas will be the underlying and central theme as you and your family celebrate the holidays this year. May God bless you all.
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