Just a little background as I read through chapters one through four. This is a book about the true life of Joe Ehrman as written by Jeffrey Marx. Jeffrey entered Joe’s life as a young boy entering 7th grade when he went to a summer tennis camp and found himself sidelined and struck by the great opportunity to hang out with the what was then known as the Baltimore Colts that were having summer practices at the same college Jeffrey was going to camp at. Jeffrey begins talking about the background of Joe Ehrman, a Goliath of a man that was an all american stand out defensive lineman playing for the Colts at the time as well as the relationship Jeffrey builds with Joe and the Colts football team soon being hired as the team ball boy later on when he turned 16.
I begin at the parts in which Jeffrey talks about Joe and this standout who was the “life of the party” full of laughs, jokes, drinking, and living life to it’s fullest. He was a man that would purchase a house for it’s size with the thought of team parties in mind as the deciding factor. Joe is then caught by suprize as his far younger brother Billy in which Joe and Billy were very close by any definitions of closeness of siblings. They had plans that Billy would become a professional football player like his brother and was on his way to doing that and basically was raised by Joe since his father was gone much of the time with the line of work he was in.
A quote is talked about that Joe really liked that went like this:
“There is a destiny that makes us brothers
None goes his way along
All that we send into the lives of others
Comes back into our own.”
This is important as it ties directly into the experience that Joe and his family experiences with Billy. Billy one day walking off the field notices a large number of dark deep bruises all over his body but knowing that he did not hit or go hard was very confused. This begins Joe’s spiritual path because many of us have that experience that causes us to ask and question. You see, Billy was diagnosed with a rare cancer in which his bone marrow was not producing enough blood cells.
Joe then spends the remaining limited time of Billy’s life by his side, sleeping on the couch, making him laugh even if it was for a few seconds forgetting he was sick, to holding him tight as Billy who always looks up to Joe as his protector, crying and pegging him to, “don’t let me die, please don’t let me die.” I remember the years I sat watching my mother fight day in and day out, be in pain, and finally pass away and it still hurts. I could only imagine that someone so close as Joe and Billy having to watch his brother pass away and not being able to do anything. This big time football player with all the money in the world, popularity, and resources can do nothing but be with Billy as he withers away. I myself had the time to realize this that I would be with my mother, I couldn’t save her but I could be with her as she was with me on the day I was born, and I was. I was there they day she took her last breath in the room supported by my wife and supporting my father.
My wife believes that this was a very important moment in my life and I won’t deny it. Imagine Joe, a man who by all means raised his little brother and were closer than “normal” siblings going through this. In fact, Joe took Billy at the end to visit the team, his other family and sit in a whirlpool to help take away some pain as friends said their good byes.
This is the moment as Joe is filled with so much hurt and sadness begins to question. You see, Joe much like myself and many others, grew up a good home but not a home that was filled with God. There was never much talk about God, faith, and religion so Joe found something that gave him fulfillment and a sense of “salvation” which was football and all his success that came with it. He didn’t need God during those times even though I believe God was there for him even if Joe didn’t know it or want it. I relate and reflect on this because, my home was a good home. Two parents, a dog, food on the table, and a roof over my head. What more could I want, yet I know realize that I wanted more. I found football which I was successful at and received recognition for by many in school. At that time, why did I need God. In reality, I needed God more than I would even understand. Joe questions after Billy’s death:
- How can a God that loves us allow this to happen?
- How can there be so much suffering in the world?
- What is the purpose to life?
- Where does real meaning and purpose come from?
Sound familiar? we all reach this point at some time and some degree. But as I have learned that it is alright to question, we may never know the reasoning until we are face to face with our Lord, but it is alright to question. It is more important to trust and that trust comes with time and allowing the Lord to work in us in many different ways.
You see, soon Joe came across some people that were starting what is known as the Ronald McDonald houses at hospitals for families in which want to be close to their loved ones. Joe’s asks in a joking way, “where the hell where you when Billy was here?” Joe then began working with these people to raise funds and get permits and soon opened the first house in Baltimore at his brothers hospital with more in the works. Joe discovered something, he put meaning to the quote, “all that we send into the lives of others comes back into our own.” We must understand that Jesus wants us to serve others. Jesus is the ultimate example of a servant and wants all of us to help others and know that if we help others we are helping Him and if we deny others we are denying Him.
It is not about us is it when we look at the big picture is it? The last thing before I close is that as Joe begins his journey spiritually and realizing that football is a platform to help others. Yes, he was successful at it, but more opportunities are being opened to help others even though he could not help save his brothers life. The book talks about Joe’s discovery of a little author known as Victor Frankl. I tell you what, if you want to read a great author and a great story then read the book, “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Victor Frankl. I have read the same things that Joe is talking about that, the question that Joe or all of us ask at some time, what is the purpose to life? comes with many answers and he is on his path to discovering his. Victor Frankl was a Nazi Camp survivor and when he survived, he created something called logo therapy. Based on the question of why did almost all around him die or “give up” when he survived? The fact was that no matter what the Nazi’s did, they could not take away one thing from him. They could even take his life, but they could not take the fact that he controlled how he perceived his situation. Victor concluded that there are two main avenues in which one arrives to meaning:
- Creating a work or doing a deed
- Even the helpless victim of a helpless situation, facing a fate he cannot change, may rise above himself, may grow above himself, and by so changing himself.
Joe decided to took at the loss of his brother as a motivating factor to help others. To use what God blessed him with to help others in ways he knows can benefit them. It is true you know, we can not control our situation or circumstances but we can control how we perceive and respond to them. What is the old saying? “you are ten percent what happens, and ninety percent how you respond.” Think about it, take something bad in your life, it does not have to be a tragic situation but something negative and reflect on it. What came out of it? how did you grow? what did you learn? how did you respond?
I think about the past several years. For example, the loss of my mother was hard and it still hurts, but, it did strengthen my relationship with my father in certain ways. It helped me open up and discover a faith in God that has helped my and my family. The loss of my job and hearing more “no’s” or “not the right fit” more than I can count on my fingers and toes was so hurtful I broke down, got depressed, hurt my family, and yes was even taken to the hospital but law enforcement. I was embarrassed, but know I look at it, what my family and I did after that because I was forced to look up and rely on God, I am in a situation I would never have dreamed and helping others more than dreamed.
If nothing else, please take away from this reading and reflection that, you control how you perceive negative things. You are not defined by your circumstance, you are defined by how you respond to those circumstances. Circumstances come and go, some bad and some good, but in the end choose to give in to God during those times and take the mindset that you are going to grow and learn from it because you will still go on. You will still go on and perhaps help somebody one day in the same circumstances. Thank you so much and hope to read your comments and join me next time in my next reflection of a, “Season of Life.