Thursday, August 7, 2008

The Life of Johnny Stallings

I got this article from the most wonderful people Little Addie's parents Blog" since Gene and Steve's Dad, "Sam" are 1st cousins and all of our family prayers are with them I wanted to pass it on to everyone also.

Touching article
A very touching and well worth sharing. I think everyone knows that Gene Stallings and his wife were blessed with a special needs child 46 years ago, who has now passed away.Gregg Thompson, *Contributor *Published August 4, 2008*All I ever really needed to know, I learned from Johnny Stallings.*You can go to the finest schools and get any advanced degree theyoffer. Or you can read all of the business and self-improvement booksyou want. But for a Ph.D in true wisdom, take a look at the life ofJohnny Stallings.You may have never heard of Johnny. He had Down Syndrome.When he was born, 46 years ago in Alabama, the doctors saidhe wouldn't live even a year or two because of a severe heart defect.Other well-meaning doctors advised his parents to put him in an institution."In a year," they said, "you'll forget you ever had him."But fortunately for all of us, Gene and Ruth Ann Stallings didn't taketheir advice. They chose to treat Johnny as a vital part of their family.And we are all the better for it.As his father advanced his football coaching career — first atAlabama, then to Texas A&M, the Dallas Cowboys, Arizona Cardinalsand finally to a national championship in 1992 at Alabama — Johnnywas an integral part of the team. To Johnny, the most important personwas the trainer.Trainers take care of the players," he once said. "You can't win withouttrainers."To the day he died, Johnny Stallings wore a massive, diamond-encrustedNational Championship ring on his frail fingers, which were tinged agrayish blue from the lack of oxygen caused by his heart condition.Johnny was front and center in that National Championship team photo.In fact, he was a part of every team his father coached, including thestoried Dallas Cowboys. The players drew inspiration from him. When Johnnyturned 40 years old, for example, his birthday party was attended by a Who'sWho of former NFL stars.Johnny had some accomplishments of his own. He was featuredwith his father on a popular national United Way TV commercial,has a playground named for him at the RISE center in Tuscaloosa,had the athletic training facility at Alabama named for him, and wona "Change the World" award from Abilene Christian University.But perhaps the most important thing that Johnny Stallings accomplishedis this: he taught us that it doesn't matter what awards you win, or whatworldly accomplishments you achieve, it is how you live your life thatmatters most.So what can we learn from Johnny Stallings?*● Every life matters.*The life of Johnny Stallings teaches us that God can use anyone, nomatter how insignificant in society's eyes, to make an impact on others.Johnny had none of the things that you and I take for granted, but Johnnytouched countless lives in ways none of us can even begin to imagine.Our materialistic, success-driven culture doesn't really know what to dowith people like Johnny. Society certainly didn't know what to do withJohnny when he was born 46 years ago.But God did.*● See the good in everyone. "Be my friend."*When Johnny got to know you, you became his "friend."And he never forgot you. Despite being mentally disabled,Johnny never forgot a name or a face.Johnny literally saw no evil in people. Johnny had more friends in hisshort lifetime than any of us will ever enjoy.*● Walk openly, simply and humbly with God.*The Bible tells us, "And what does the LORD require of you?To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly withyour God." That describes the way Johnny lived.He could barely read or write, but Johnny Stallingsprayed the sweetest prayers you ever heard.He didn't necessarily know the fine points of theology,but you could tell that he knew God. He walked with God,openly, simply and humbly. And everybody knew it,whether they acknowledged that God or not.*● Love unconditionally.*In Johnny's world, you didn't keep score or attachstrings to love. He loved unconditionally, all of the time.*● Smile. Laugh. Hug.*The last time I saw Johnny, we brought him a T-shirt fromDreamland Barbecue in Tuscaloosa, one of his favoriteplaces to eat. Johnny hugged us. He patted us. Hesmiled all of the time. Johnny was one of these peoplewho always made everyone feel better just for havingbeen around him. Who among us can say that aboutourselves?*● Treasure every moment*.Johnny, of course, was supposed to be putaway in an institution. Doctors told them Johnnywouldn't make it to age 4, and when he did, they thensaid he wouldn't live past 11 because of heart and lungissues common to people with Down Syndrome.Then we always heard that Johnny wouldn't live past 16.And on and on. So with Johnny, you treasured every moment.*● Little victories are the ones that matter the most.*Everyone focuses on the championships, but with Johnny, you celebratedall of the little victories. Then, after a while, you realized that thoseare the ones that really matter the most.*●Trust God because He really does know best.*Despite being frail and disabled, Johnny Stallings wore a NationalChampionship ring. Every member of that 1992 Alabama team will tell youof Johnny's impact on that team. Johnny Stallings literally changed theworld and made everybody he met a better person — if only for that moment.Gene Stallings, a star football player, champion ship coach and toughenough to be one of Bear Bryant's legendary Junction Boys,probably used to dream of a son who would be an impact player,who would change the world, make a difference and somedaymaybe — just maybe — wear a National Championship ring."I prayed to God that He would change Johnny,but He changed me," Coach Stallings once said in a speech.He added that if God offered him the choice of going back andhaving a "perfect" son without a disability or havingJohnny, "I'd take Johnny every time."Gregg Thompson is a 1972 graduate of Paris High School, formersports writer for The Paris News and currently director ofcorporate communications for Chick-Fil-A in Atlanta, Ga.

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