One of my all-time favorite quotes roughly reads: “Character is doing what’s right even when nobody else is watching.” Though professional athletes always have the eyes of the world watching, often times, it’s still impossible for them to do the right thing.
That’s obviously not the case for Matthew Stafford, who proved once again why he’s the right man to be leading the Detroit Lions. But it’s not just because he’s a budding superstar who threw for over 5,000 yards last season while guiding his franchise into the playoffs for the first time since 1999. The measure of this man is much more than any of those shallow statistics will ever show.
Recently, when Stafford had the chance to meet Faith Falzone and her family, they made an immediate impression on him. Faith has been struggling with an incurable bowel disorder and is bravely set to face surgery. Understandably, that’s taken a toll on her entire family. So, last weekend, when Stafford was at a fundraising dinner for Mott Children’s Hospital, he placed a $15,000 bid on a Monday Night Football experience where the winner received a trip to see the Lions take on the Bears in Chicago. Faith’s brother Will loves the Lions, and had discussed wanting to see that particular game around the quarterback. Stafford won the prize and gave it to the Falzone family, who won the right to see one of the Lions’ biggest games of next season.
Why the sudden impulse purchase? Stafford simply thought it would be a nice treat for a good family going through hell. While other celebrities were racking up $15,000 bar tabs and buying material goods they didn’t need, Stafford was thinking of a way to put a smile on somebody’s face with his money. The best part? He wasn’t doing it just to get his name in the paper, nor was he doing it because anyone forced him to. This random act of kindness came straight from the heart.
It’s not everyday the public can say children should take something away from the newsworthy acts of athletes in their lives, but in this case, a major exception should be made. This is a teachable moment. Stafford didn’t expect anything in return for his act, and the only reason it made headline news was due to the event’s stature and media presence. Fathers can show their sons all they want about Stafford’s pocket presence or throwing motion, but they should also make sure to explain how he carries himself. Lessons like saying please and thank you, being humble despite immense talent, treating everybody right, and making relative strangers smile for no particular reason are just as vital as arm mechanics.
I get it. We’re not all multi-millionaires with the constant ability to throw money around for the betterment of society. In some ways, though, that’s better. It forces the rest of us to think about how to improve our corner of the world in more creative ways. With Stafford’s example, think of how you could make tomorrow better for someone else. Perhaps it involves doing chores for someone who is incapable, or holding the door for someone who’s hands are full. Maybe it’s being a more responsible driver, or remembering to have manners and do right by everyone, including your significant other.
You don’t have to be a somebody to make somebody’s day. Even though Stafford is a major somebody, his unexpected altruistic act proves that we can still occasionally learn positive things from athletes.