Spiritual Life Gleanings from the Thai Cave Rescue

thai boys with pic

Members of the Wild Boars football team, after writing messages on a sketch of former navy Seal diver Saman Kunan (who died during the mission to rescue them). Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

“That’ll preach,” I, along with a host of other preachers, have regularly said through the years — as any number of compelling stories or antidotes have caught the attention of mind and heart. 

In various ways, I find myself saying (or sighing) those words as I continue to feed on memories of last week’s rescue of the 12 boys and their soccer coach in Thailand.

I certainly do not want to trivialize the pain of the boys, their coach, their parents and families (and especially the family of Saman Kunan, the Thai navy SEAL who died amidst rescue efforts).  Still, enduring themes and messages were sounded in the days and weeks of their rescue – life lessons which, I suspect or hope, we all felt and perceived:

  • Community is essential to our survival.
    Whether is was the companionship of teammates and their coach or the larger gathering of nationalities at the mouth of the cave, it’s clear: the boys would not have made it if there had not been community – a setting aside of “lone ranger” agendas.
  • Balancing work and rest is crucial.
    Much as there was an urgency to get the boys out, divers could push no further nor faster than their bodies would allow. Breaks for renewal (the ancients of our Judeo-Christian faith called it “sabbath”) were crucial to the mission’s success.
  • No pain, no gain.
    Sacrifice (epitomized by the death of Kunan) and freedom go together. In an age in which too many seek quick fixes and easy solutions, it’s important to affirm the value of discipline – even suffering.  While we do not go out of our ways to hurt, neither do we go out of our way to avoid it at all costs.  Pain, suffering can be redemptive.

Other lessons could be added, I’m sure.  (Maybe you’ve thought of something I’ve missed?)

I choose to end, though, with an acknowledgement of that which strikes and stirs me most deeply: namely, the ways that all these (and other) lessons or insights converge to underscore that there’s plenty of good in our world to celebrate and keep before us.  In a world gone seemingly mad and bad, the rescue of those Thais (through the cooperative prayers and actions of a global community) affirm for me a fundamental strain of goodness at the core of humanity and creation – a goodness that flies in the face of all that tempts me to become jaded and cynical and calloused.

What Anne Frank wrote about people (amidst her terror-filled days) has meaning for me, here:

It’s difficult in times like these: ideals, dreams and cherished hopes rise within us, only to be crushed by grim reality. It’s a wonder I haven’t abandoned all my ideals, they seem so absurd and impractical. Yet I cling to them because I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart.

I strongly believe that it’s at the core of what we celebrated last week… and continue to celebrate: that, in spite of everything (all the vitriol, all the hatred and prejudice and divisiveness, all the terror and abuse and brokenness), there is true goodness at the heart of our existence.  The bulk of the world’s response to the Thai rescue – as, indeed, the reaction of the majority in the face of all tragedies – reassures me, at a time when I really ache for reassurance, that the better angels of our collective nature can (and will) carry the day.

What “preached” to you amidst these recent rescue events in Thailand?  I’d love for you to leave a comment, below.

posted by Jim Reiter on July 17, 2018

4 thoughts on “Spiritual Life Gleanings from the Thai Cave Rescue

  1. Pam Orr says:

    Oh Jim, thank you for penning what my heart felt about the entire Thai event and for highlighting
    the simple yet profound life lessons exercised by the cast of thousands!
    I look forward to more-much more of your wtitten offerings.

    • Jim Reiter says:

      Thank you, Pam… I think it’s why I also like Steve Hartman’s stories (usually Friday evenings) on the CBS evening news: our souls need an infusion of good news!

      It’s been good, as well, to be able to pick up the pen.

      I think I’m going to really enjoy this retirement gig(em)!

  2. wendycrom says:

    The quiet smiles of the boy. There was no pushing to get in front of the others in the cave. They waited for days after being found to start the rescue and put their trust in strangers. Waiting in the dark knowing that it was monsoon season and then being blessed by dryer weather until they were ready and able to swim out.

    • Jim Reiter says:

      Yes, Lois! And the ways that the “outsiders” allowed the empowered the boys — allowing them to be a part of the solutions!

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