The number before my birthdate. The least number of days in the shortest month. The number of dominoes in a standard set. The number of Hebrew letters in the first verse of the Bible. Warrick Dunn’s jersey number. The maximum number of games for a team to play in an NHL or NBA playoff run. Guessed it yet? It’s the number 28, considered by mathematicians to be the second “perfect” number. This “energetic” number carries a lot of different attributes but, for the past two weeks, it has taken on a new meaning, a remarkable significance all of its own for the people who know Jack Enright. Jack is a 16-year-old Chapin, South Carolina high school lacrosse player who wears jersey number 28. A number being recognized and honored all over the state of South Carolina and much of the southeast. Jack, like many of our own, is an athlete, a student, a brother, a son. A normal kid fighting an abnormal battle. Jack is struggling to do what we all learn to do in the first two years of life; what he has already accomplished once in his childhood. Jack is trying to walk again.
Here’s the scene. It’s an early spring, high school lacrosse game night. A bunch of young, strong teenage boys playing their hearts out to win a game in the name of spirit and pride. Team spirit and school pride. Then came a hit, an injury, a chill in the air. The fresh, new season enthusiasm and excitement went down like a heavy black curtain on a decorated, live stage. Number 28, one of our own, was seriously injured with a broken neck. The next few days filled with fear and uncertainty brought this tiny southern suburb to a standstill, all in the name of number 28, all for the love of Jack. I recall that one time, the only time, I flew out of the bleachers, jumped over the coach’s bench and ran onto the field. A cheetah had nothing on me. No sir, I was the mother of a 10-year-old injured football player and nothing was keeping me from getting to my motionless cub. But, I was stopped in my tracks. “You are not allowed on the field, Mom”, the coach told me, with his arms extended straight out and his palms six inches from my face. “We will tend to your son”. I was scared AND helpless. In the end, my cub was fine. But, “what if?”, I asked myself over and over again. It was a bit of a fear that never completely went away for my next eight years in the stands.
Jack is our healthy reminder, our prompt to enjoy each day for exactly what it is at that moment. Life the way we know it can change in an instant, often causing agony, then acceptance, then action. This is exactly what the Enright family is experiencing as I write this blog post tonight. They are at the Shepherd Center here in Atlanta helping Jack learn to walk again. They are devastated but hopeful. Shocked but making strides. They are acting on doctors recommendations, living one day at a time, all in the name of hope and faith. God is good and, so is the uniting of a small community inspired by the spirit and smile of a 16-year-old injured high school athlete. The “Pray for Jack” phrase has become a recognized slogan all over Chapin and much of the Palmetto State, even stretching as far west as Louisiana and as far north as Maine. It is refreshing and heart warming to see us, you and me, human kind, doing exactly what we were designed to do; doing what makes us most fulfilled and invigorated – helping others. This unfortunate accident created a feeling of comradery (a bond created by a shared goal or experience), resulting in large numbers of friends, family, acquaintances and even strangers coming together to achieve a common goal. A desire to make things better for a family, a family like yours and mine, because that’s what we would want if the table were turned, because we can relate to sitting in those stands, because we have all had those border line “irrational” fears and, at the same time, we have also thought “this just couldn’t happen to my child”. Well it can, it did. It happened to Jack – our friend, our neighbor, our teammate, our pupil, our opponent and most importantly, our son. We were stopped in our tracks; not because we couldn’t run on the “field” and help but, because we could. We stopped our normal routines to aid, to love, to support a teenage boy who didn’t deserve a broken neck playing a game he loved; a game he played for fun and health, for comradery and school pride. No, united as one, we are determined to make this better for Jack. Why? Because we can relate, we understand and, we want to make difference.
The number 28 is a pretty ordinary number on most days. But on this day, it is extraordinary. Not as a stand alone number but, as the number worn on the lacrosse jersey of Jack Enright. Jack, the positive 16-year-old with a big smile and an even bigger heart. The student athlete, the friend, the brother and the son who we all know and love. Jack, number 28, the one inspiring us. Pray for Jack.