2100 feet below the Earth's surface, 33 trapped miners wait in darkness to be plucked from what might have been their grave. Surviving for 17 days on rations meant for two, 32 Chileans and a Bolivian refused to surrender to the death that gleefully awaited them – each ingesting only a spoon-full of tuna fish and a little milk every 48 hours so that all would have an equal chance to live. With resolve and dignity, they said “no” to a fate that had never before taken “no” for an answer. And so they live, still. With no cause for hope, they kept hoping – and made sure the rescue party found them. With no reason to believe they would emerge alive from the rocky jaws of the mountain that had engulfed them, they kept believing – and politely asked for toothbrushes instead of last rites. How absurd of them! Yet, right before our eyes, the absurd becomes sacred; ordinary miners, nobility.
In a world poisoned by pettiness, vanity, and mindless consumerism, where image trumps reputation, and the hypnotized multitudes fall victim to the tyranny of status and profit, 33 shirtless men entombed in a dank Chilean copper mine show the rest of us how to live. Instinctively, each man understood the intrinsic value of his fellows; and all worked in concert to accomplish what no man could have accomplished alone. And thus did the miners mutually re-enforce their collective will to survive so that survival itself became possible. By daring to break down the forbidding walls of their own angst and doubt, they found the strength do what had to be done to see their loved ones again. These men are true heroes and role models for every Girl Scout.
Imagine what could be if the whole world did that! And if the bottomless well of pettiness then ran dry and the stink of vanity went away. Indeed, what would happen if we all awoke and suddenly grasped the true nature of our human potential? And if we all stopped being so tiny-minded and instead embraced the humanity and courage of the Chilean miners and made them our own? Would we then be able to say “no” to another fate that has never taken “no” for an answer? And yet another? Could we then, in turn, be rescued from the dungeon of egoism into which our media-dictated priorities have surreptitiously cast us? Could it be that by their example the trapped miners are unwittingly rescuing us? If so, will we find the wisdom to allow ourselves to be rescued?
And what of other examples of raw, unpretentious courage? About nine years ago, masses of New York's bravest selflessly cast themselves into the breach to rescue whom they could from a 110 story inferno in lower Manhattan. Hundreds never returned. In 2009 a US Airways pilot, scorning the taunts of destiny, brought an Airbus whose heart had stopped beating in flight to a safe landing on the Hudson river. All aboard survived. Rare as precious gems, a lone man or woman – or a group of individuals –inevitably comes along when we least expect it to remind us of the nobility of which we are all capable and what it truly means to be.
The trapped miners, the New York City firemen, and the US Airways pilot, simply went to work to feed their families. Meeting basic needs and responsibilities and honoring an unspoken commitment to their fellow human beings is what motivated them. Deep underground, 32 Chileans and a Bolivian were literally “mining their own business” when the Earth swallowed them whole. Undaunted, they humbly declined fate's best offer and chose to live instead. Like the intrepid firemen and the steely-nerved pilot, they chose to answer only to their better selves. In response to these stunning examples of courage, confidence and character – three words that the Girl Scouts of Nassau County live by - we can only say: “Thank you, thank you very much.”
James Langan is an Information Technology Administrator at Girl Scouts of Nassau County. In addition, he also works with his Girl Scout colleagues to support language translation.
James has followed the Council’s work on Critical Issues and is passionate about spreading awareness on the various issues facing children today. We look forward to hearing from him on other topics again soon.