Our last blog was dedicated to the legacy of Ken Ravizza who inspired everyone to be high achievers in sport, and more importantly, in life. Our next blog series will be on the book Season of Life: A Football Star, a Boy, a Journey to Manhood by Jeffrey Marx. As football season approaches, we will be reminded of how the lessons on the gridiron are about more than just winning. Marx was a ballboy with the Baltimore Colts when he first met Joe Ehrmann. After looking up to Ehrmann as a larger than life NFL player, a series of events led Marx to reconnect with Joe as he was a volunteer football coach for Gilman high school. Marx’s book chronicles how Joe taught lessons well beyond the X’s and O’s of football.
In our final blog, we will discuss Ehrmann’s commitment to a higher cause. Marx detailed that one of Ehrmann’s favorite quotes is by Edwin Markham:
“There is a destiny that makes us brothers
None goes his way alone:
All that we send into the lives of others
Comes back into our own”
This poem brought great comfort to Ehrmann as he faced the imminent death of his younger brother, Billy, because of cancer. Ehrmann’s long nights in the hospital with his brother led to his involvement with the Ronald McDonald House, whose mission is to house cancer patients and their families during treatment. Marx detailed how Ehrmann had always been involved in community service, but being connected to a cause so close to his heart made him realize the opportunity he had to use his athletic achievements as a platform for a higher cause. As Marx states, “Joe took the ultimate negative….death….and made something positive out of it for both himself and others.”
Ehrmann was involved in several community projects, most notably The Door that focused on educational sessions, a food and clothing bank, and groups sessions on important topics in society. All were welcome at The Door and the members of the Baltimore community found a refuge. Later, Ehrmann created a foundation called Building Men for Others aimed at challenging society’s definition of masculinity and teaching men how to be other oriented, rather than self-focused. To this day, he has continued to dedicate his live to serving others.
Ehrmann also practiced the importance of serving a higher cause every day. Marx describes his surprise on his first day with the Gilman High School football team. The coaching staff asked the young athletes “What is our job?” and they responded “To love us.” When asked “What is your job?” the athletes responded “To love each other.” The coaching staff went on to say, “If you’re here, then you’re one of us, and we love you. Simple as that.” In the sports world, it’s easy to get caught up in someone’s worth being attached to their productivity. It’s normal (and good!) to want to win; however, never at the expense of taking care of each other.
Your higher cause might be a commitment to a charity or foundation, and that’s great! Just don’t forget that you have a higher cause in every daily interaction…to love others. Seek to serve – seek to be the best teammate possible, regardless of what role you play. Marx explains how much Ehrmann focused on the importance of empathy, and really trying to understand someone else’s perspective. When we truly try to feel with someone, we have the opportunity to connect in a much more meaningful way.
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