The world is watching. 13 boys are trapped in a cave after two weeks. Every major newspaper and TV network in the world has published stories about them. The New York Post featured the drama in full front-page pictures for several days. The Pope prayed for the boys from his balcony overlooking St. Peter’s Square. HRH Princess Maha Sirindorn and her brother HM the King of Thailand have been helpful in mobilizing unusual levels of cooperation. World leaders have been distracted from their manipulation of world affairs, and vast numbers of sports fans have given attention from the World Cup football spectacle, to the Wild Pig football team in the cave.
Week one – The boys went missing after a bicycle outing on a bright sunny day. Their bikes were located not far from home inside a well-known cave. Heavy rain had suddenly flooded the cave. The world held its breath while cave rescue units from several nations arrived and the Thai military dedicated unlimited equipment and personnel to locating the boys.
Week two – They were found alive and safe but weak, on day 9 by a cave rescue team from Derby England 4.6 kilometers inside the cave where they had managed to take refuge from rising water. Huge pumps were airlifted in. Miles of pipes were carried by soldiers and connected to try to lower the water level enough to get the boys out. Oil drilling equipment is also trying to reach them from above, through more than a mile of rock. Meanwhile, the boys are being supplied with survival rations and medical care by a Thai Seal team.
Week three – Just beginning. Prospects: (a) The boys will be brought out one at a time through nearly impossible conditions. (b) The boys will be sustained in there until the water level goes down at the end of the monsoon rainy season in 3 or 4 months. (c) Deluges will flood the cavern where they have taken refuge.
Like most residents of Thailand, Pramote and I have been tuned in to almost round-the-clock coverage of the drama. I want to join many commentators making observations about lessons we can learn from our arm chairs.
1. For once, there is a real-life drama going on where cynical, derisive, political voices are restrained. What a relief!
2. Amazingly, many Thai bureaucracies have laid aside their protective barriers to just do what needs to be done. It is now proven that this level of cooperation is possible.
3. The measure of a country’s moral fiber is how it responds to the urgent needs of its littlest people.
4. If authorities had been allowed to think about it, they would never have allocated funds (now well into tens of millions of baht) to rescue 13 boys.
5. The relief when the boys were found alive was one of the most emotional moments of the decade. We are not emotionally and ethically beyond help if we can care so much about little boys we have never met.
6. This event coalesces every aspect of the Thai people’s faith apparatus. (This is complicated (and deserves a separate essay) but it includes all religious authorities voicing the same hope, thousands of people working tirelessly without relying solely on divine intervention, sustaining strong human spirit against daunting natural odds, and sharing narratives that otherwise would obscure future prospects.)
Finally, I want to hear that those brave, fragile boys have been brought back out of that hole by those skillful, unselfish heroes who are dedicated to making it happen.
Rev. Dr. Kenneth Dobson posts his weekly reflections on this blog.