Real Team Spirit

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“Real Team Spirit,” Ensign, Sept. 1998, 62–63

Real Team Spirit

Many years ago, an all-Church basketball tournament was part of the program for youth. Most young men hoped to have their basketball team win stake and regional competitions and then be able to compete in the all-Church tournament. Our ward in Tujunga, California, was small and had few young men, so no one thought our team had a serious chance at the all-Church championship—except Evan, the coach. But under his leadership our team won the stake and regional competitions. My husband, Ian, was serving as Young Men president and was impressed with the special bond these boys shared. Evan explained it simply as team spirit.

During church on Sunday morning, the bishop announced the exciting news that our young men had won their regional game during the week and would compete in the all-Church tournament. However, I was not in church that Sunday because our two-year-old daughter, Shauna, was in the hospital fighting for her life.

Shauna had been near death several times in the past months with recurring double pneumonia. When my husband and I arrived at the hospital early Thursday morning, there was an unusual number of doctors and nurses scurrying around. Obviously something was wrong. When we entered Shauna’s room, her doctor was listening to her shallow breathing.

“You’ll have to take Shauna home,” he said. “We’re fighting an incredibly contagious, virulent flu. In a few hours it has spread throughout the entire hospital.” His face was etched with exhaustion. “We have decided to release every patient not on life support. Shauna will need intensive round-the-clock care at home.”

While I stood fighting back tears, Ian carefully cradled our little two-year-old in his arms for the drive home. I sat with her for 22 hours the first day. She couldn’t hold down even vital fluids and medications. Every moment I sat with her, I prayed.

On Friday, Ian drove to the church parking lot to see our basketball team off. The young men were already piling into the two cars that would take them to Provo, Utah, for the tournament. Ian hurried over to shake hands with each one and wish them victory. He loved those fine young men and was so proud of them.

Evan took Ian aside and asked, “How’s Shauna?”

“No change, Evan.”

“I’m so sorry,” he said. “We all care about your family. And Shauna is so little!” Evan climbed into the car, and they pulled away with the boys yelling, “Win! Win! Win!”

That evening was one of our hardest. I was exhausted, and Ian sent me to bed while he sat with Shauna. Early Saturday morning he gently woke me so he could go to work. One look at his face and I knew there had been no change in Shauna.

By midmorning I had determined Shauna would have to go back to a hospital somewhere. She hadn’t been able to keep down even an eyedropper full of liquid, and her breathing was raspy and labored. I’d wait until she awoke; then I’d call the doctor.

I closed my eyes, still exhausted from the stress, and rested in the chair by her bed. Then I heard her voice. I looked at my watch, wondering if I had fallen asleep.

“Mama, I’m hungry,” Shauna said softly.

I looked at her in astonishment. There was color in her face, her eyes were clear and bright, and her breathing was normal! She sat up and said a little louder, “Mama, I’m hungry!” I leaned over and held her, tears blurring my eyes.

That same evening Evan’s wife called to report that our basketball team had lost their first and therefore their only game. They were on their way home. “Most important, though,” she asked, “how is Shauna?”

“She’s going to be fine,” I told her with great joy.

On Sunday the bishop welcomed the team back and assured them that despite their loss, the ward was very proud of them. The young men didn’t seem the least downcast as one might expect. In fact they seemed exceptionally cheerful under the circumstances.

That evening our family discovered why.

The boys never would have told us, but one of the ward members who had accompanied them thought we would want to know. He said that after they’d left the parking lot Friday, Evan had motioned the cars to stop and talked to the team. “Brother Mackay’s little daughter is very ill,” he told them. “I have decided to fast and pray for her until just before game time tomorrow. I am not requesting that any of you join me. We are on our way to a tournament that our ward has never been in before and possibly never will be again, and you need your physical strength to play. But I thought you may wish to remember her in your prayers.”

That evening they stopped for the team to have supper. Quietly each boy said he had decided to fast also. Evan reminded them that this was an important event for them and he was not requesting them to fast. Then one of the boys spoke up, “Hey, coach. Aren’t you always talking about the importance of team spirit? Well, this is it!”

On Saturday morning the team closed their fast and met for prayer in behalf of Shauna. Then they went to play their game.

“What time was the prayer?” I asked. He thought a moment, then indicated the very hour when Shauna had awakened and spoken to me.

Yes, the boys lost their game, but they also won a victory. Their team spirit acquired a new dimension when they put Shauna’s need above their own, and their joyous attitude at their return was due to learning that Shauna’s recovery began from the very hour their team had joined together in prayer.