I heard a story recently that I want to share:
It’s 2003. The Portland Trailblazers are losing in playoffs 0-2.
(This story isn’t about sports, but hang with me…)
Before the game, a 13 year old girl name Natalie Gilbert, who had recently won the “Get the Feeling of a Star” promotion, stepped up to sing the national anthem. She’s wearing a nice dress. And she looks pretty nervous. She gives a small smile, gathers her composure, and once the applause quiets down she begins singing.
It starts off pretty well. It sounds like what you might imagine a good 13 year old singer would sound like.
“Oh, say can you see by the dawn’s early light
What so proudly we hailed…”
But then she messed up a few of the words. And she stops.
She gives a short and nervous chuckle as the place grows completely silent for a short moment. Then there’s a few encouraging cheers and yelps. And then cheers of 20,000 fans trying to reassure her.
The girl, still struggling, puts the mic up to her forehead in complete embarrassment. She then looks for her dad in the stands. She looks for some help. Some rescue.
And rescue comes.
A man in a grey suit approaches her and says, “It’s all right, it’s all right. Let’s go, let’s go.”
He walks up to her puts a hand on her back, and another hand on her hands in support, and attempts to jumpstart her singing. He tries to throw out the next words while singing himself. He doesn’t sing well, and he doesn’t even get the words right himself. But it doesn’t matter.
She starts singing again.
And he doesn’t stop. He keeps on standing there with her, singing along in the background, hand on her shoulder. His voice is actually pretty terrible, and she has just a couple hiccups herself as she continues. But by this point, it doesn’t matter at all. The whole stadium is now standing, and 20,000 people join in with Natalie as she sings the rest of the national anthem.
It’s a powerful moment.
The man who rescued her was Mo Cheeks, head coach of the Portland Trailblazers.
That man probably had a million things on his mind about that game before it started. Things he wanted to say and to do to make sure his team didn’t go down 0-3 in the playoffs.
But when he noticed Natalie struggling he instantly walked up to help. He saw the need, made himself vulnerable before a huge room of people, and did an amazing thing for a 13 year old girl.
That room was changed. People were inspired.
The story could have been one of pity and perhaps, sadly these days, one of ridicule – when a 13 year old girl messed up singing the national anthem. But Mo Cheecks stepped in along side of her and saw a much bigger picture at hand. He not only was rooting for this girl’s success, but he did something himself to actually help her to be successful.
Was it the most beautifully that she’s probably ever sang the national anthem? No way. But it was the best that she’s ever sang it because she stuck it through, accepted the help, and kept going. The entire stadium soon was singing too.
1. Mo Cheeks is my ideal self in this situation. I try to notice the bigger picture around me and ways to not simply root for people, and especially teenagers, to do well, but to do something about it myself. To metaphorically walk up to the 13 year old girl, show my support by leading by example and by being authentic, shaky voice and all. Because it doesn’t just help one person, it can inspire many others at the same time who happen to be witnessing it. We are always teaching and influencing those around us.
2. A challenge: Who can you notice today that you can step in and help by putting your needs on the back burner for a moment, humbling yourself, and supporting someone in need in a real way. How can you make your ideal self align with your lived out self today?
Here’s a video of it in case you wanted to see it.