Mining for Inspiration

Associated Press photo
We pulled men out of the ground today. Not just out of the ground, either. We pulled men in a tiny tube a half-mile up from the depths of the earth to the surface, where their loved ones and the rest of the world waited, breathless.

And we feel pretty good about it, don’t we?

I’m saying “we” because today, for this story, I need to be a part of it. I need to feel the heart of humanity, the power harnessed when millions focus their prayers and efforts and TV sets and web browsers on 33 men trapped somewhere deep within their long, narrow country on the other side of the equator.

For the last few months (at least...) it seems we’ve seen the darker side of humanity. Political attack ads. War. Environmental devastation. Religious persecution.  I could go on, but I won’t. The point is, these are aspects of the world that I suspect are not going to change, and one day my sons will learn about them. And their perceptions of the world will be irrevocably altered, not for the better.

But then something will happen, some potentially catastrophic event that turns on a dime and a prayer when something unexpected and hopeful occurs — something like 33 men sending up a note 17 days after their gold and copper mine collapses, to tell the world they are all alive.

And when that happens, life becomes more personal in a beautiful way. We find something to really root for. We witness the strength of the human spirit, and we feel that spirit inside us soar when others triumph. Our faith in humanity is restored when we watch hundreds of strangers come together for even a single human life.

I was 14 when “Baby Jessica” McClure, an 18-month-old living in Midland, Texas, fell down a well 22 feet below the grass where she’d been playing. For 58 hours the world watched and waited and prayed for someone to figure out a way to get that baby out of the 8-inch-wide well casing she'd fallen through and back into the arms of her frantic parents.

It was the first time I can remember really experiencing that feeling, that pride in humanity at the image of one life saved by so many others. Thinking about her rescue invokes a feeling and an image I’ll never forget. Afterward I remember daydreaming about being part of something like that, not to feel the glow of the spotlight but to experience first-hand the inspiration of so many joining forces for such a simple common goal -- the preservation of human life.

When I think about “Baby Jessica” now it is with different eyes, a mother’s eyes. My little Evan is 19 months old, and if he was injured and out of my reach for 58 hours, as she was, I might have clawed through rocks to get him out. I’m quite sure her mother tried.

Fifty-eight hours seems interminable until I think about those miners not seeing daylight (let alone their own mothers, wives and children) for 69 days. I didn’t allow my kids to watch any of the rescue coverage these last two days, only because I was afraid my 3-year-old might misinterpret what he saw and heard and be afraid -- that mines collapse, people fall, the earth sometimes swallows you up.

But the lesson I am eager for him to learn is that when you do fall, invariably someone is there to help pull you to your feet.

We pulled men out of the ground today. And it feels pretty good.

1 comment:

Sheila said...

I was riveted and inspired, too. Love that you were moved to write about it. And I, too, can't wait for your boys to learn that when the earth swallows you up, there is always hope that you can get out.