By Carrie Kennedy, MEd
A few years ago, I was introduced to Joe Maroon at an art opening. Being from Pittsburgh, I knew he was a neurosurgeon and a team doctor for the Steelers. But when Joe invited my husband and me to dinner just a week later, I learned much more about him.
Joe shared how, in his early forties, he thought he’d achieved the very definition of “success”: wealth, a family, and high standing in the medical field. But then his wife left him, his father died unexpectedly, and in a bizarre turn of events, Joe went from performing revolutionary surgery one week, to pumping gas at his father’s dilapidated truck stop the next. And in the months that followed, Joe struggled with poor health and debilitating depression.
What turned him around? Reading I Dare You by AYF’s founder William H. Danforth. Joe had received the book in high school but had never taken a close look at it. Danforth’s words, however, came through loud and clear during Joe’s difficult time and forced him to take stock of his life and chart a better course. Now in his mid-seventies, Joe can honestly say I Dare You and Danforth’s concept of square living saved his life.
Why was Joe telling me all of this over dinner? Well, he’d read my first book on classical mythology and liked how I told stories, and now he wanted my help to tell his story. I gladly accepted the challenge. The result, Square One: A Simple Guide to a Balanced Life, begins as a personal memoir and then offers scientific evidence on the immeasurable benefits of balance. And one thing became abundantly clear to us early on: the book needed a chapter on the “square” for children, as a way to honor Danforth’s dedication to youth and his desire to redefine the meaning of “success.” Joe and I are both honored to have had the support of the AYF, including members of the Danforth family, and we hope Square One becomes a source of information and inspiration for everyone AYF serves.
Here’s the introduction to the chapter “The Square for Kids,” where Joe encourages readers to help children establish a balanced foundation:
“You might say I learned the importance of balancing my life during that tumultuous year I spent in Wheeling, West Virginia. But that doesn’t go far enough. The fact of the matter is, picking up that copy of Danforth’s I Dare You was actually the first time I understood the very notion of balanced living. And the four-square living model was so simple in its presentation and so clear in its benefits that it has helped guide me ever since.
This last chapter, therefore, could be considered the most important one in this book because its goal is to adapt and reshape the material I’ve covered so it relates to youth. If parents, grandparents, teachers, or anyone who spends time with children and adolescents can consider balance in this new light, they will see the undeniable benefits of discussing Danforth’s square early and often with the next generation.
When these concepts are presented consistently and become part of a family’s lexicon, they foster the kind of routines and habits that can shape a child’s future path. The desired effect is that by helping young people celebrate the importance of each individual side of the square and how interrelated these sides are to one another, it promotes a natural desire for balance. And the more intrinsic this desire becomes—the more children recognize that paying attention to these things offers its own, continuous reward—the more they will experience the true benefits of balance: good health, positive relationships, and a sense of flow as they discover their strengths and purpose.”
Dr. Joe Maroon has offered to donate a generous portion of the proceeds of Square One to the AYF for all books purchased by members of the AYF community. Use the link below and enter promo code AYF at checkout. We hope you’ll consider adding this volume to your collection.