Life lessons from the Chilean miners

A wholesome practical working faith is to consider, ‘if you only had moments left to live, who would you call, what would you say, and then, ‘what are you waiting for?’

Chilean Miners 311 (photo credit: Associated Press)
Chilean Miners 311
(photo credit: Associated Press)
Who could not be moved by the incredible rescue story of the Chilean miners? Sixty-nine harrowing days trapped more than half a mile beneath the earth’s surface, these 33 men confronted an uncertain future. With stale air and limited rations, they remained oblivious to whatever efforts were being exerted above ground. Surely they will have each been wondering at different intervals whether they would ever see their loved ones and, quite literally, the light of day, again.
Chile is, after all, not of the most technologically advanced countries, and with similar well-publicized stories in other places, with more disastrous endings, they could only wonder, “Will the same happen to me?” This amazing story, that will surely make for feel-good headlines over the next many days, and will certainly go down as one of the “stories of the year” in annual news roundups, conveys powerful messages to each and every one of us.
WE WAKE in the morning, head off to work, going about our daily routine, taking life pretty much for granted.
Sometimes – alas, all too often – something suddenly catches us off guard. On the macrocosmic level it could be an earthquake or a devastating terrorist attack. On the micro level, it could be a sudden diagnosis, the loss of a loved one or unexpected financial turmoil. Suddenly we find ourselves stuck in that proverbial tunnel wondering whether we will ever see our way out of the darkness.
What strengths do we summon? What reservoirs of faith do we draw from in order to maintain our resolve in the face of the crisis? The Chilean miners demonstrate ever so forcefully that rather than throwing our hands up in despair and abandoning hope, we need to realize that even when the light at the end of the tunnel seems so far away, there’s always more than one way out – even if you have to dig.
“God doesn’t over-impose upon His creation.”
If the challenge presents itself to you, then there is something within you that will enable you to overcome it, even if it takes more than once to access it.
On an altogether different level, try to imagine being confined to a room with the same group of people for nearly three months. How well would you get along with them? At what point would any one of them start irritating you? How would you then manage that? There’s no escape, after all. If every one of the miners was to have conversed equal length of time to each of the other 32, that would amount to fifty-one and three quarter hours of talking. Even spread out over many days, that’s a lot of conversation.
One could readily assume they shared different religious beliefs, political bents and life perspectives. The experience in itself would necessitate the very real need to learn to tolerate one another, even as they might not see eye to eye. Isn’t it the case that we fall out with others often over trivial nonsense, let alone personal beliefs and viewpoints? Shouldn’t we pause to consider that no man is an island unto him or herself,and that notwithstanding our differences, when we face the challenges of life together, united we stand, divided we fall! FINALLY, ON a lighter note, also remember the lesson that Yonni Barrios is going to have to learn the hard way.
According to newspaper reports, his wife Marta Salinas turned up at the special vigil many weeks back and was shocked to overhear one Susana Valenzuela also citing his name in her prayers. Each insisted to the press that when he emerges he will return to her.
For now, the rescued miner was met by his mistress. Whether he returns to his wife remains to be seen.
What with the fragility of relationships as they are today, and the unfortunate way we take each other for granted, not to mention the lack of time and devotion we share with one another, because “life” takes over – we shouldn’t have to wait for a crisis to force us to re-evaluate our priorities and learn to concentrate our energies on those people who are integral to our very existence.
We really need to take time out: to pause and reflect on how much we truly appreciate those loved ones who add real blessings into our lives Life is a gift, every moment precious. We don’t walk around wondering what’s around the corner, nor should we. But we shouldn’t be taking life, and our role within it, for granted either. We should always keep the future in our sights, stop putting off till tomorrow what we could have done yesterday, and live in every moment.
A wholesome practical working faith is to consider, “if you only had moments left to live, who would you call, what would you say, where would you go, what would you do,” and then, “what are you waiting for?”
The writer is a renowned writer, lecturer and broadcaster. He is rabbi at the Mill Hill Synagogue in London, England, and chairman of the Rabbinical Council, UK.