CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 13 October 2018

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Ordinary men called to be heros

Last week, while the destiny of many football teams were rising and falling in the Moscow courts, and many people kept praying for the victory of one of the two teams in game, another game of a different jersey was unfolding in Thailand where everyone prayed for the success of both teams, at Tham Luang, “the cave of the sleeping lady” in Thailand. 
 
A British diving duo Rick Stanton and John Volanthen were leading a team of divers and all sorts of experts against all possible odds of the nature to save the 13 member football team named “Wild Boars’’ marooned miles far in the cave. The world joined for the successful return of both teams although the rescue cost the life one of its members.
 
Though the rescuers said not to hail them nor the Wild Boar football team as heroes, heroes they were, for had it not been for their extraordinary wisdom and fortitude, the world would have suffered the loss of this team. I am writing this familiar story not to repeat it but to highlight the heights of human solidarity and oneness that our race is capable of in spite of all the news that we are exposed to believe otherwise.
 
It all began with the 17th birthday celebration of “Night”, one of the team members of the Wild Boars. The team headed to Tham Luang a favourite hangout place of the team to celebrate. They had a practice of writing the name of a new member on a rock eight kilometres far into the cave. On the way, a spacious area of the cave, they had named Pattaya Beach. 
 
One of the Wild Boars, who could not join the trip gave the existence of a Pattaya Beach, a critical piece of information to the navy seals. He was a little hero by himself, using his little knowledge to guide a mammoth rescue operation. I am reminded of the boy in the Bible who had five loaves of bread that fed five thousand people. What is apparently insignificant had become the corner stone of this rescue.
 
The coach was another hero of the operation though some enjoyed pelting stone at his imprudence to lead the team into the cave. They lovingly called him, Ake. 
 
He was a trained monk before becoming a coach of the team. He put to good use his training to calm the children down through meditation. He made them lie down to reduce physical activity to conserve the precious air and of course reduce the need for food for a longer period. This coach was another hero who refused to panic and was capable of calming the children. The letters that the parents of the childrens wrote to the cave reveal their appreciation for this hero who took care of their wards. 
 
Rick and John are two heroes who shied away from lime light always but masterminded the rescue. These are people who have other jobs for their livelihood. But they picked up cave diving as a hobby. Rick has a past of saving six British soldiers stranded in a cave in Mexico. In 2010, Rick and John had dived into an even more treacherous cave in France to save a friend diver who had died in an underwater avalanche. In fact, some who knew the duo had commented that if anyone could save the children, it would be these Britons. 
 
A life time of their training and expertise was reckoned at this moment. Or was it for this moment that the Divine Providence gave them a life and trained them? 
 
What appeared through them was the expression of human solidarity in moments of distress. If the recent past has been groping in the darkness of religious, race divisions and the political cacophony that try to legitimise such divisions, here is an epitome of human solidarity. 
 
The purpose of a whole lifetime gets solidified into a thick moment like this. Not only for Rick and John, it was the same for the anesthetist diver Doctor Harris. He is an experienced diver with 30 years of diving up his sleeve. When the rains started pouring out before the rescue operation began, the world was running out of options and haplessly waiting to see life snuff out of the Wild Boars in their sight. 
 
Then, it was Harris, who brought hope to humanity, even without their knowing. He decided to tranquilise the boys during their transit to prevent panic attack in the dark water, which could make a difference of life and death. 
 
But what made him stand apart was not his expertise in diving nor in his decision to tranquilise them, but his humanity. His decision to rescue the weakest of the boys first against the initial decision of taking the strongest ones first might have an explanation beyond what a practical minded earthling could think of. Three days delay would have been critical for the survival of the weakest one and the joy of such rescue would have been marred by the shadow of a humanity that lets the weak die. It was humanity rescued, in his decision.
 
But, one player was lost, Saman, one of the navy seals who ran out of oxygen in his own tank while delivering that same gas to the stranded team. But he gave up his life in the hope of giving life to thirteen. What could be more divine than these? 
 
I hear the words of the gospel of John ringing in my ears as I recollect the heroism of Saman. There is no greater love…….