Editor’s Note: Jay Parini, a poet and novelist, teaches at Middlebury College. His most recent book is “The Way of Jesus: Living a Spiritual and Ethical Life.” The views expressed in this commentary are his own. This commentary has been updated from an earlier version in response to the news of the rescue of the boys and coach trapped in a cave.
All eyes were on Thailand, as we watched the brave divers who risked their lives to bring a trapped boys’ soccer team and their young coach to safety.
Our hearts went out to these divers, who have shown not only great courage but incredible skill. One can hardly imagine the difficulty of this rescue effort, which took place deep underground in impossibly narrow and jagged areas, with powerful currents pushing against divers who had to perform a complex task in near-zero visibility in parts of the cave.
It was inspiring to see this effort in part, I suspect, because of the international make-up of the rescue team, with British, American, Australian and Japanese divers (among others) joining Thai divers, and with other countries adding their expertise. This joint effort was symbolic, and it suggests a world where, at least for a time, it’s possible to work together in a constructive way toward a common goal.
In the Thai cave, there were no skin colors, religious differences or questions of sexual identity. Nobody wrapped himself in a flag or questioned the science at hand. This was one of those rare times when we see how much we can achieve against terrifying odds when people work in unison, selflessly, to do something important.
Putting the welfare of these children first, in itself, is admirable. We’ve all made mistakes, and it occasionally takes a village at times to make up for those mistakes.
I don’t think anyone, anywhere, begrudges the amount of money it cost to rescue a dozen boys and their coach. What’s interesting to me is that nobody is counting. Everyone knows that the value of life can’t be measured in money.
And everyone is beholden to Saman Gunan, the Thai diver who lost his life a few days ago while making his way out of the Tham Luang complex of caves. His willingness to put his life on the line for the trapped boys and their coach was remarkable. He showed us courage in its purest form.
It doesn’t surprise me that countless people around the globe were riveted to their screens, waiting for the boys to emerge, one by one, eager to hear that the divers also were okay and that the coach was rescued in good health as well.
There is high drama here, of course: underground rescues always hold our attention.
I remember being glued to the TV set during the Chilean mine disaster of 2010, when 33 miners were rescued under what seemed at the time like impossible circumstances. They were trapped far underground in great danger for 69 days, and the world (an estimated one billion people) watched the rescue.
The fact that the whole world watched and prayed for these boys in Thailand was part of the drama. Everyone knows that each of these children, and their coach, matters to his anxious family.
I have three boys myself, and I can only imagine the fear and trembling in homes as parents and other family members wait for news. The pain of separation between parents and children is an intolerable pain, and something that all people with a shred of humanity in their hearts will appreciate.
Let’s hope this successful international effort to rescue a dozen boys and their coach in a remote cave in Thailand lifts us all, bringing us back into the light where we can stand together and be grateful for those who teach us to care this deeply.