Natalie Gilbert was 13 when she won the promotion to sing the National Anthem at the Rose Garden, home of the Portland Trail Blazers basketball team. On the day of the game she woke up feeling sick, but she knew the show must go on. As she stood center court in front of 20,000 fans, she started singing.
“O say can you see, by the dawn’s early light,
What so proudly we hailed, at the starlight’s … star …”
Natalie nervously chuckled and shook her head. Still holding the microphone, she raised her right hand and covered her face in embarrassment.
The crowd cheered for her to continue, but the little girl was speechless. Out of ideas she looked around for her father. “I was turning around looking for anyone to help me,” Gilbert said. “No one did anything.”
She stood alone, humiliated, until Coach Maurice Cheeks walked over. The coach put his arm around her and said, “It’s all right.” He raised the microphone to her mouth and helped her remember the words. Gilbert’s confidence slowly returned. The crowd joined in. All together, they finished with a bang.
Coach Cheeks was the head coach of the Blazers; he was moments away from the biggest game of his career: a must-win play-off game against a Dallas team that already had a 2-0 lead in the seven-game series. He was undoubtedly pre-occupied with plans and strategies, but he still thought to come to the aid of a frightened young girl.
Cheeks had no idea the impact his actions would have, but the gesture gained national attention. (Interviewed by Jay Leno on The Tonight Show and CNN; the video is on YouTube.)
Extraordinary leaders like Maurice Cheeks, step up and support when no one else does. You see them in busy restaurants, the manager helping staff clear tables, the business owner giving key employees time off during the busiest season and community volunteers stepping up to do whatever they can in a crisis. They are authentic and pitch in whenever and wherever they are needed, leading by example, encouraging their people to do the same. Their business’s culture is shaped through their actions.
Good comes from caring and helping others. The ripple effect is boundless.
The road is easier together,