Lessons in Character: Walter Payton

I hope everyone had a happy Easter.

I thought this might be a nice time to tell you about one of the greatest lessons in character and generosity that I ever got - from the late, great Walter Payton.

It was the early 90s. I was in New Orleans with the Hall of Fame running back; I had booked "Sweetness" for an appearance at a pharmaceutical trade show.

The first morning we were there, we were all set to leave the hotel where we were staying, to go to the convention center for the show, when I couldn’t find Walter. I ran around for an hour, checking rooms and making calls, when finally I found him in the hotel kitchen.

He was signing autographs and taking photos with all of the wait staff, cooks and other employees who worked in the kitchen.

After he was done with everyone there, we finally got into a car to head to the paid gig.

“Why did you sign for all those people?” I asked Walter. “We’re not even eating there.”

“Those people are important, too,” Walter said. “They’re just as important as the doctors we’re going to see, even if they’re not paying me. You have to make people feel special whenever it’s possible.”

No doubt Walter made the day of everyone in that kitchen.

No wonder the NFL named its Man of the Year Award after him.

I’ll never forget that day. Ever since, I’ve tried to live up to that standard in my own life.

A lot of people fall into the trap of treating other people according to their status or importance. They fawn all over wealthy or powerful people, and they disregard those they deem lower, like airline stewards, doormen, and other service people.

But treating others as you’d like to be treated isn’t just “right” or “polite.” It reflects one’s own character and integrity. Show me a gracious, generous person, and I'll show you a more content, well-adjusted person. Show me someone disrespectful to others, and I'll show you someone close to falling apart themselves.

It’s like what I said about giving last week: the better you treat others, the better you're treating yourself.


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