Your children shield in danger's hour;
From rock and tempest, fire and foe,
Protect them wheresoe'r they go;
Thus, evermore shall rise to Thee
Glad hymns of praise from land and sea."
The eyes of the world have been riveted toward Chile these last few weeks. That little unknown spot in the desert called San Jose Mine has made many of us stop and think. Chilean miners were trapped for 69 long days. It looked as if they might die in those caves two miles underground. And so when word came that a rescue was possible we all gathered around our TV’s and watched breathlessly as the first worker slowly moved to the surface. We claustrophobics could not even imagine being trapped under ground for months. Wednesday evening when the last miner came out—most of us breathed a sigh of relief.
The first miner came out looking for his wife and little boy. What a reunion. The joy on his face as he saw all those gathered was wonderful. The President of Chile and his wife were there—sharing in the glory. He had used his influence to rally engineers and specialists from all over the world. That same scene was repeated all through Tuesday the night and Wednesday. Surely there are lessons to be learned from this near-tragedy.
We're All Important
It struck me as I watched this event unfold how important we all are. Those trapped were simple laborers working under terrible conditions to provide for their families. Engineers, doctors, psychiatrists, and workmen came to help from all over. Five specialists risked their lives in joining the trapped miners. No one looked at credentials or took out the predictable yardsticks we use to judge. We all can be a little prouder of the human family when we remember that once again the concerted efforts of so many caring folk made an incredible difference.
Families are Primary
As each miner surfaced I was reminded again and again of how much families matter. Being released above ground they did not see the Chilean President or all the workers that helped. Those freed workmen scanned the crowd for wives, children, brothers and sisters. They reached out to touch those they loved first. We often forget how important are the people closest to us really are. The relational quality in life can never be underestimated.
These rescued miners kept talking about how faith kept them going. They believed God was with them. Most were Roman Catholic and probably learned Bible stories, prayers and the catechism when they were children. Yet in a crisis time, they fell back on a faith that sustained them when all seemed lost.
Government is Essential
I was struck by the importance of the work of the government. Those recoveries would never have happened without the Chilean government and other countries that came to help. The cost of this effort must be astronomical. I am sure the United States has done our part—we usually do. But back at home, on the eve of an election, we debate the importance of government. And this is a necessary dialogue. But it seems to be a strange argument when we realize there are some things we do together that we can never do alone. Government is neutral—it is how we use this instrument that tells the story. Those rare moments when labels like Democrat and Republican fall away and we join hands to help people, we stand tall and come closer to the old dream of a united states.
The last miner, worker number 33 was brought to the surface Wednesday evening. Soon all the equipment so necessary to the rescue effort will be dismantled. The workmen that traveled from everywhere will return back to their own counties and jobs. Hopefully all of the miners will be found healthy. Will we remember the San Jose Mine in Chile and what happened there? If we ponder the lessons of the darkness in that Chilean mine we may just be a better people.