Over the winter my kids began following our local high school boys basketball team in the newspaper. We’re friends with two of the players, and we decided in January to take our boys to a couple games so they could cheer them on in person. I’m not sure if it had to do with the fact that my boys came up to the players’ belly buttons, or that those colossal high schoolers (in comparison to my shrimpy offspring that, unfortunately, have no chance to ever reach such heights) could slam dunk the ball, but we may as well have been going to a NBA championship game. We had four ecstatic boys ready to cheer with every ounce of their basketball-loving souls. We chose a game against a rival school, and the bleachers were dense with fans from both sides of town.
Shortly after we nudged our way to an empty spot, the announcer introduced the teams and a pretty, blonde choir student took the mic to sing the national anthem. The roaring crowd quieted, removed hats, and covered their hearts as her euphonious voice filled the gym. As she reached “O’er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming,” her voice suddenly cut away. Murmurs filled the crowd, wondering if the mic had stopped working. Seconds passed, and it became clear that the mic was not the problem. She had simply gotten nervous and was trying to find the courage to continue. A few minutes later, she began again. “Oh, say can you see…” her voice slightly wavering under the pressure of hundreds of people listening in anticipation. From behind our bench, a man picked up the words. “by the dawn’s early light…” More voices joined in, and the girl’s voice grew stronger. Soon the entire gym was singing. As the song reached the climax, the crowd on both sides of the bleachers went wild, and the singer who had started again so timidly hit the last notes with gusto.
I’m sure I wasn’t the only one in that gym blubbering as the announcer took the mic, but regardless my kids were a bit mortified that their mom was getting all emotional at a basketball game. What was this, the ballet?? At that moment, I felt like I had just witnessed something significant about who we are: as a town, as a country, as human beings. Contrary to what we see in the news, in tabloids, or during rush hour, there’s good in this world. We have the capacity to step up, encourage, help, and lift others when life seems to be pulling down. I was so impressed that not even the other team’s fans or her fellow high schoolers ridiculed or booed. Everyone joined in, and everyone cheered. When she felt alone, the good people in that gym showed her that they were all there to support her and lift her up. It really was an incredible thing.
I’ve been reflecting on that experience as the entire world faces a new challenge, something completely unknown. As shelves in grocery stores go bare, the stock market plunges, and medical procedures that some have been waiting for go on hold, fear seems to be the rational response. But in times like this, let’s remember that there’s so much good, and we are incredibly resilient. We have the ability to lift up those who feel torn down, to appreciate and cheer on the heroes that are on the front lines. We can help, we can trust, and we can love.
“Don’t give up. Don’t you quit. You keep walking. You keep trying. There is help and happiness ahead. It will be all right the end. Trust God and believe in good things to come.” -Jeffery R. Holland
An editorial in our newspaper the other day used a quote from Apollo 13 in reference to the coronavirus and what is going on around the world, and because of my boys’ obsession with NASA and all things rockets, it resonated with me. 50 years ago this year, the three astronauts on board Apollo 13, 205,000 miles from Earth, faced unthinkable odds. Gene Kranz, flight director, heard someone say, “this could be the worst disaster NASA’s ever experienced.” He responded, “With all do respect, sir, I believe this is gonna be our finest hour.”
This is our moment. Let’s exemplify humanity at its finest. Let’s add our voices to those that are struggling to finish the song. Let’s make this our finest hour.