The 4th of July rarely passes without my remembering one of the most moving renditions of the Star Spangled Banner I’ve ever witnessed. It made me proud to live in small-town America and to be connected to something greater than myself. It also made me aware of how our coming together in community influences future generations and how one teachable moment can change the course of a child’s life. Whether we come together to celebrate our nation’s independence, gather at sports events, or assemble for a common cause, these experiences remind us of a world beyond ourselves – a world that that will be inherited by our children and grandchildren.In a stadium filled with hundreds of people, a teenage girl, perhaps 15 years of age, was introduced to sing the Star Spangled Banner. As she began to sing her solo, with no musical accompaniment, her voice began to crack. She quickly recovered after an uncomfortable chuckle and clearing of her throat, only to lose her voice again as she attempted to sing, “And the rocket’s red glare…”Did the crowd react with a gasp of disbelief? No. Did we cross our fingers and hope she could make a comeback? No. We reacted spontaneously, with compassion and support. We began to hum the music in the background, like we were her musical instruments. Our humming provided a soft framework of guidance and let her know she was not alone. She was supported by hundreds of strangers who, at any given moment, would have begun to sing if she faltered again.
The audience’s humming was subtle and subdued; we never took the song away from this young girl. After the humming began, you could see and hear her confidence rise. She never lost her voice again. As tears streamed from the adult faces in the audience, she was given a huge round of applause. I had goose bumps — filled with pride for this teenager and for my community. We stepped up to the plate, showing our children that it’s not about always being the best; it’s about the process of becoming your best.