In the past, we might have said we were glued to our televisions, and some of us undoubtedly were this time around. But, for the last two weeks, I’ve been eagerly checking my cellphone with every notification, hoping for an update about those kids trapped in the cave in Thailand.
We’ve become armchair experts on speleology and cave-diving. We know the biographies of world-class divers and a 25-year-old soccer coach who used to be a Buddhist monk. Through TV, newspapers, texts and social media, we’ve followed the epic struggle of 12 boys trapped in what was, at least initially, a hopeless situation.
And then they were saved.
We’ve needed some good news. It’s been a rough few years, and things are getting worse and worse, so it was nice to see something good happen. Everyone trapped in that cave made it out.
After the rescue, there was a list going around showing the nationalities of the people participating in the rescue. Thailand, Australia, Denmark, Israel all were represented. Some of the best divers in the world came together to help rescue those boys.
We needed some good news, and we got it.
This isn’t a world in which the good guys win as often as we’d like. It’s actually more of the opposite. Cheating, lying, stealing often is rewarded with power, money and security. Heroes in stories are as fictional as the mythical ones of years passed, and it’s all too easy to become cynical.
And then Thailand happened.
I’m not going to call it a miracle. It wasn’t. It is very easy to explain how those boys and their coach were brought out of that flooded cave: Some of the most skilled divers in the world came together to solve a problem. You can find diagrams, video and explanations of how it happened. And, in years to come, there certainly will be books and films documenting the process, with various degrees of authenticity.
But there were hundreds of divers and experts on the ground who put in the time and worked to bring those kids home. One of the Thai Navy SEALs died in the attempt, as well. It was a bleak situation.
We needed good news and we got it.
The immediacy of news isn’t anything new. The telegraph sped things up where you could learn what happened on one coast in the morning in that evening’s newspaper.
It’s been more than half-a-century since television first was able to beam moving pictures into our living rooms from the other side of the world.
Sure, now we carry news in our pocket and depending on whatever app you have on your phone, any media company can get your attention whenever it wants. But we’ve always wanted to know. Since the first newspapers circulated in the coffee houses of Enlightenment Europe, or probably when town criers shouted what they knew in the squares of Göbekli Tepe, we’ve needed to be informed of what happens around us, and around the world.
While we can talk about the good old days, those town criers probably were warning of invading hordes or swarms of locusts as much as they were about new babies or bountiful harvests.
But watching world events in real time is more recent. No one got a play-by-play of the Mongols sacking Baghdad. Even in the 1980s, during what I assume was a national pandemic of children falling down wells, the updates were confined to the nightly news shows.
With the boys trapped in Thailand, in a dark and flooded cave, we could get hourly updates if we wanted. Anywhere we were.
And we got good news.
I’m probably still going to be cynical moving forward. You don’t turn a ship around on a dime, and I’m sure someone will say/do/tweet something frustratingly ignorant even before I finish writing this column. There have been a few things since Tuesday that could have been angering, but I choose not to let that bother me.
Instead, I’m going to spend the rest of the week reflecting on the fact that there are more good people in the world than bad, that people can do great big things well, and that no matter how much trouble you are in or how deep you are, there are people who will give everything to help you out.