Joy And Happiness—O.J. Brigance

by Doc Orman, M.D.


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To continue our focus this week on joy and happiness, I want to tell you about retired professional football player O.J. Brigance .  Brigance began his pro career in the Canadian Football League in 1991. He was a pass-rushing linebacker, and in 1993 he had 20 quarterback sacks and was voted to the CFL All-Conference Team.  Then, in 1995 he was voted an All-Star and lead his team (Baltimore Stallions) to a Grey Cup championship.

From 1996 to 1999 he played for the Miami Dolphins, where he was twice voted a team captain. The next year (2000), he joined the Baltimore Ravens as a special teams player, and he contributed greatly to their first Super Bowl championship. He retired in 2002 after playing briefly for two other NFL teams.

Illness Strikes

Since joining the NFL in 1996, O.J. has been actively involved with a number of different community organizations, including Habitat for Humanity, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, and the Daily Food Bank.  Then, in May 2007, he was diagnosed with ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis or Lou Gehrig’s disease).

Shortly after his diagnosis, O.J. and his wife Chanda created the Brigance Brigade Fund (http://brigancebrigade.org) to raise money to improve the quality of life for ALS patients and their families by providing access to vital treatment, medications, equipment and support services. In partnership with the Robert Packard Center for ALS Research at Johns Hopkins, the Brigance Brigade also supports the critical funding of research for a cure.

Inspiration For All

For the past several years, O.J. has served as Director of Player Development for the Baltimore Ravens and serves as a motivator and inspirational leader for the team. Listed at 6 feet and 236 pounds in his prime, his body has withered, he can only communicate now with the aid of a computer, and he requires assistance to get around in a motorized wheelchair and attend to his other needs.  But he still shows up daily in his office at the Ravens’ suburban practice complex, still attends practice, and still performs his job of helping players handle the transition to the NFL.

Having a seriously debilitating disease has ravaged his once formidable body, but it has not diminished his spirit or passion about life at all.  According to Ravens head coach John Harbaugh, “O.J. is our spiritual rock.”  It’s also been said that he is “the strongest man on our team” and that what All-Pro linebacker Ray Lewis does to inspire our team on the field “O.J. does for us off the field.”

He is clearly one of the most respected and beloved members of the Ravens family and the Baltimore community as well.

Could You Be As Happy And Up-Beat As O.J?

Faced with similar devastating circumstances in life, could you be as happy and up-beat as O.J?  If you say YES, then congrats to you.  If you say NO, then what would be stopping you?  Is there anything O.J. Brigance has as a human being that you lack?

Would it be possible for you to be happy and joyous even though you might have terrible circumstances in your life?  

These are important questions to think about, as they tend to reveal our basic philosophies about where joy and happiness come from and how we can experience them in life.

In my final blog post on this subject for the week, I’ll explore these underlying philosophies (presuppositions) in more detail.

 

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Rebecca Kennedy May 10, 2012 at 10:19 AM

THANK YOU for highlighting OJ Brigance!
He is an amazing person and the work he and his wife Chanda do is inspiring! Last weekend was the 6th Annual FIESTA 5K to benefit the Packard Center for ALS Research at Johns Hopkins. OJ has been the honorary Chairman for 5 years.

OJ is also on twitter: @OJBrigance

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