Every once in a while, something happens at a sporting event that provokes a discussion of much deeper societal values. Such an event happened Saturday, July 9, at Yankee Stadium. Christian Lopez, the fan who caught Derek Jeter’s 3,000th hit, a home run, made an instant decision to give the ball to Derek Jeter, even though he had an absolute right to keep it, and maximize the economic benefit from securing a ball that is very important in the history of baseball. To put this into perspective, the value of what the Yankees gave him for the ball was probably worth around $50,000. The ball could have fetched $400,000 in an auction.
Whether he made a values-based judgment that he had simply received a windfall and did not deserve to profit simply from being in the right place at the right time, or whether he believed that he would receive more long-term economic benefit from giving up the ball does not matter: he did an admirable thing.
Everyone’s behaviors are on a continuum from being totally generous of spirit to others to being totally mercenary and interested only in helping oneself. To be generous of spirit does not mean that one withdraws from the capitalist system, lives like Mother Teresa or Paul John Paul II, and deny or give away everything material. A person whom I consider an example of practicing behaviors that are generous of spirit, and whom I have always admired, and got to meet by serving briefly on a board of directors with him, is Neil Armstrong, the astronaut who was the first person to walk on the moon.