The Thais that bind
The world has been captivated by the heroic rescue of the 11 members and coach of the boys’ soccer team trapped in a deep and winding cave in the mountains of Northern Thailand. The last of the 12 exited the mouth of cave about an hour ago. It is such wonderful news that I cannot think of writing about anything else.
We live in a world that seems full of chaos. The traditional alliances seem to be turning upside down. Even within our own country division seems to be the norm. You are far right or far left, with little room in between.
For the past 18 days, we have had a rare opportunity to see the world join together behind a common cause. 11 young boys and a 25-year-old coach have done what world leaders struggle to do with little success; they have united the world.
19 skilled divers from around the world gathered on the muddy roads leading up to the mouth of the cave, including five Thai Navy Seals. One of those seals lost his life in trying to set up the rescue of the team. Despite the overwhelming odds and the increasingly bad news, no one suggested the rescue be suspended.
We use the word “hero” rather loosely these days. There is no shortage of real heroes in this dramatic rescue. Divers spent days in cold, muddy water sliding through narrow passageways and climbing over boulders the size of a house. Just as time was running out and hopes were diminishing, the boys were discovered by two British divers.
The discovery of the boys only pointed out how difficult getting them out was going to be. Most could not swim. They were in declining health. They had spent nine days in the total darkness of a cave, a circumstance that can drive people mad.
Many thought the boys may have to remain in the cave for up to four months due to the monsoon season. It soon became apparent that it was now or never. The approaching torrential rains were going to cut off any hope of escape while at the same time cutting off what little oxygen was getting to the shelf where the boys were located.
Much will be written about the hundreds of people involved in the rescue. Up to 90 divers were involved in each of the rescues. The coordination of the professionals and the volunteers was extraordinary.
Which brings me to the remaining heroes, the boys themselves. Aged 11 to 16, they were scared, hungry and alone. It is hard to fathom the desperate situation these boys and their coach were in, yet they hung in there.
The coach asked for forgiveness from the parents, who replied that none was required. “Do not blame yourself” was their message back to the coach. In the meantime, the coach was the weakest of them all, due to giving most of his limited food supply to the boys.
An orphan himself, the coach spent ten years in the company of monks. The meditation techniques he learned as a boy allowed him to teach the team members meditation. This helped calm their fears and ease their hunger. The coach’s care for the boys in the worst of circumstances qualifies him as a true hero.
As is often the case when the odds seem insurmountable and hope is almost gone, people of all faiths around the world turn to God. Prayers were lifted in hundreds of languages with a united message; Dear Lord, please spare these boys.
The predicted rains never came. The boys made it out over a period of three days. Simply put, prayers were answered.
Perhaps there was another message that God sent to all of us. For a brief moment, the world had a common goal. We had a common prayer. In the end, we rejoiced as that common prayer was answered and the boys were all delivered safely from the depths of the cave.
To paraphrase the old hymn, it was the Thais that bound the world together and showed us what the world could and should be like. Praise be to God for those answered prayers.
Dan Ponder can be reached at email@example.com