Jun 30, 2009

Being a Hero

I've taken to watching this video when I feel a bit down about the human race. This incident occurred in April 2003, at the beginning of an NBA playoff game. The 13-year-old eighth-grader had won a contest to sing the national anthem. When her big day came, in front of an audience of 21,000 people she forgot the words and got stage fright. Standing there all alone, not sure what to do, with everyone watching, she's clearly mortified. It's impossible not to empathize with her.

And then something magnificent happens. Maurice Cheeks, the head coach of one of the basketball teams, appears at her side. He puts a fatherly arm around her, repositions her microphone, and starts singing along with her. She recovers her composure, he encourages the audience to join in, and shortly afterward the anthem ends on a high note.

The songbird's voice became strong again. The few moments during which her acute embarrassment could have spread to everyone present became instead the set-up for an inspiring demonstration of kindness, leadership and redemption.

I'm not a huge sports fan. But playing sports encourages us to pick ourselves up, brush ourselves off, and keep moving forward. It teaches us that stumbling is normal, no big deal. And if we're really lucky, it exposes us to coaches who really do help those around them reach their potential.