Are you familiar with the name Lee Stafford?
If you live outside the UK, you probably aren’t.
But even if you live in the UK, you might not be familiar with who he is and what he does.
Stafford is a UK Essex-borne celebrity hairdresser who now resides in Soho.
In addition to styling hair, he’s developed his own line of hair care products and today his brand is worth over £20 million.
A few years back he was on the show, Secret Millionaire. It’s a show where a millionaire goes undercover volunteering at a number of charities. At the end of the show, the millionaire reveals his real identity and gives his charity contacts checks of varying amounts to continue their good work.
It’s a great show. And one where you just might find yourself shedding a tear or two before each episode ends.
And while the show is called “Secret Millionaire,” the actual secret millionaire is not the real star of the show.
The real stars are the people who devote their time and efforts to helping others. The people who through their kindness and compassion make a difference in the lives of the many people they come in contact with.
When Lee first arrived in Salford, shortly after moving into his temporary flat, there was a knock on his door.
His new next door neighbor, Edna, had brought him mince pies “just like his mom used to make.”
Lee speaks to the camera expressing his appreciation for her kindness…
“In the apartments I live in no one has ever done that, never. That touched me, it has. Bless her.”
Reminder #1: Random acts of kindness still go a long way.
Lee has selected two charities to get involved in the eight days he’s spending in a town called Salford.
One is called B.A.S.I.C. assists and supports people living with cancer. The other C.A.L.L. and helps people adjust to life after experiencing a brain injury.
He selected those two because ten years ago his brother had a motorcycle accident that left him with a brain injury. He can no longer hold a regular job and is under the care of Lee’s 70-year-old mother 24 hours a day. His brother recently requested that his mother help him kill himself which, obviously, caused his mother a lot of stress and worrying.
He chose the cancer charity because his mother was recently diagnosed with breast cancer.
Both charities were forewarned that a celebrity, who was taking part in a documentary about celebrities getting a reality check, was going to be visiting them.
When Lee appears at B.A.S.I.C., the person in charge, Carol, is unfamiliar with his ‘celebrity.’ Soon after meeting him she tells Lee…
“We really take our lives for granted. Something it makes you see when you work someplace like this, no disrespect to you my love, but these are the real celebrities.”
Lee takes it all in stride. Later he comments how the place is much different than he anticipated. He thought it would be dull and dreary but admits that “the place was very warm and light and that really comes down to the people like Carol being in there. She lifts everybody up…everybody.”
Next stop he meets Jan McCarthy who runs B.A.S.I.C.
Not only has she never heard of Lee. No one else has either. Even when he tells them who he is they have no idea who is he.
After spending the time interacting with people, Lee admits to Jan that he has no idea what to say to people in regards to their situation.
“It’s the greatest gift of all, isn’t it? The gift of time. You’re giving the person time. That’s all you can give,” says Jan.
She advises him to “strike up the conversation and listen.”
Reminder #2: Gifts don’t always have to be material things. Spending time with someone is one of the most powerful gifts of all.”
Back at his flat, Lee reflects on this day…
“Well, when my mom had cancer I was the person who was trying to keep a stiff upper lip and be positive. Someone who’s really ill probably doesn’t want that all the time. The want someone they can talk to and share their fears I suppose. And I wasn’t very good with that with my mom. I’d of probably been closer to her if I’d just listened more.”
Reminder #3: “Listen more.”
Aside from working with B.A.S.I.C. and C.A.L.L., Lee also wants to help a smaller organization or individual.
He hears about and arranges a meeting with Ted Selby.
Selby, 87, puts on care home concerts and donates his fee (minus petrol expenses) to the Bury House Hospice.
So far he’s raised £33,000. Ted’s goal is to raise £50,000 (or more) by the time he’s through.
Every time he hits the £1,000 mark, Ted delivers another check to the hospice. In the car on the way to deliver his next check, Ted admits that what he’s doing now hits home a little deeper because eight weeks ago he was diagnosed with lung cancer. He tells Lee he has yet to tell his wife Millie (who is blind) of his prognosis.
Stafford accompanies Ted on one of his gigs. A nursing home worker remarks how…
“Ted brings a lot of happiness to people in the home. He brings so much joy.”
Next, it’s back to the cancer charity. Once again, his day volunteering made him think of his mother.
“I forget that I’m probably the only person my mom’s got to talk to. She doesn’t have a husband and my brother can’t really talk to her on that level anymore because of his brain injury… So I’m probably the only person she can talk to and let her feelings out. And then there’s me telling her to shut up because she’s moaning and really all she wants is someone to listen to her…just like these ladies.”
Stafford then phones his mother and tearfully apologizes.
Reminder #4: “Remember to put yourself in other people’s shoes before you snap at them.”
Reminder #5: “It’s never too late to apologize.”
As the show comes to an end, Stafford goes back to visit Carol, Jan, and Ted.
He gives B.A.S.I.C. £20,000. C.A.L.L. £25,000. And Ted £16,000 to bring him up to his fundraising goal.
All, of course, are very appreciative. But their appreciation has nothing to do with personal gain. For them, it’s all about how much more good they can do with Lee’s donation. How many more people they can help.
For Lee, his time on Secret Millionaire was a game changer…
“I’ve learned a lot about how I’m going to be in the future. What it’s taught me is that what’s really important in life is the people around you in life and the time you spend with these people.”
Lee has since introduced his mother and brother to the people at CALL and become a patron of BASIC and offering them ongoing support.
Lee had this to say about the Carol, Jen and Ted’s of the world…
“These people…there are not enough of them about. We’re all so worried about the next holiday we want to go on or the next pair of shoes we want to buy. We’re all wrapped up in ourselves. And these people are wrapped up in other people. I think we could all take a leaf out of their book.”
So if you’ve ever wanted to meet a celebrity – a real celebrity – chances are there are some close by just waiting for you to introduce yourself.