5 September 2016 – Jared McIntyre (class of 2002) visited the Saints Chapel on Monday to share his story with the Saints’ community on Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Day, which falls within the Spinal Cord Injury Awareness month of September.
Jared, who had been a gymnast for 18 years, broke two vertebrae in a diving accident in December 2007, which left him a quadriplegic, meaning his arms and legs were affected.
“In the beginning, I couldn’t even close my hands, so I used to hold a knife and fork with two hands. That was the kind of challenge that I faced shortly after my accident,” he shared.
His story, though, was one of hope and encouragement. “In life there are very few things that are constant or guaranteed. Two that are, however, are that, firstly, you will experience trials and tribulations, and secondly, you will experience change in your life,” Jared told to a rapt audience.
Former Saints’ schoolboy Jared McIntyre, pictured with Headmaster Chris Thomas and Dominique le Riche, addressed the school in the Saint Andrew’s Chapel on Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Day
Facing up to challenges
“At the end of the day, it all comes down to how you approach that challenge or that setback in your life. You can either let that situation overcome you, or are you going to tackle that thing head on? That was a challenge that I faced when I had my accident.”
Gymnastics, he said, had helped prepare him for the drastic change in his life.
“Each day I was in rehabilitation after my accident, I saw as a challenge. Now I have improved my situation. Although there were tough and challenging times, each day was a day that I set out goals for myself to see how I could improve my situation and achieve the most in the time that I was there.”
Then he challenged the boys and staff to take note of the next time a storm appears. “Wait for the sun to come out from behind the clouds and you will see the silver lining behind those clouds,” he urged.
“If you look at the ratio between that dark mass and the silver lining around the cloud, there is a big difference, but the silver lining is what makes that whole dark picture beautiful. That silver lining comes from the sun that is shining from the back. The sun represents hope and the future, and the potential that things are going to get better.
“Everyone is going to go through challenges in life. It just depends how you look at the picture. If you are going to focus on the dark, where the majority of your situation is black, or if you are going to focus on that small grey cloud and hang onto that until the sun eventually comes up in those clouds, it can change the whole situation.”
Our plans for our lives seldom work out as we expect, Jared said, but we should keep working hard at the things we love and we will overcome our challenges.
Today, Jared holds down a full-time job and his days are full. Every day, either before or after work he is in the gym or playing wheelchair rugby.
“I have a very full day. Life is a choice. You can either choose to sit back in a corner and feel sorry for yourself or you can decide you want to carry on with life and live it to the full. That is something that I chose after my accident. I told myself there was no way that the situation could control my life. There were so many things I wanted to do still and achieve in my life. Don’t let situations control you and focus on what you want to do,” he said.
Finally, echoing the words of former Saint Michael’s schoolgirl Dominique le Riche, who presented him to the boys at Chapel, he said: “Be careful out there. Think before you do things. It was one split second that I made a wrong choice and there are consequences to the things you do in life.”