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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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From My Window

Issue Date: July 19, 2018

Compassion and Cooperation



By Jane Thibodeau Martin,



I was making the blissfully short drive from my brother and sister of the heart's home in Madison back to our homestead last week. As I drove I was listening to the radio coverage of the rescue work to get a soccer team and their coach out of a cave under nearly impossible circumstances. The effort involved hundreds of people- not only the people of Thailand, the country where the event occurred; but highly specialized technical experts from the United States, Britain, Australia, and numerous other countries. Already, one person assisting with the rescue had died; and there was no certainty for a long time that a way would be found to save the 13 people trapped inside.

There were cave divers, a nearly unimaginably dangerous specialty; medical professionals; cave experts; photography and videography technicians; and incident command leaders. It was hard not to be proud when I heard one of the U.S.'s billionaire technical wizards was involved " how good to hear our best and brightest minds are engaged in saving lives instead of waging war. Time was of the essence, so the bickering or dithering over decision making was dispensed with. Cooperation ruled; and eventually this mighty team, against incredible odds, saved all of the people trapped in the cave.

But what really struck me was not the technical wizardry and bravery of the team, as impressive as that was. What struck me was the tremendous compassion pouring out from all covers of the globe. I heard no talk about the stupendous cost of the effort; or the fact the team and their adult escort walked right by a huge warning sign about flooding and the danger of entering the cave during the rainy season. It was like most people refrained from blaming the group for their circumstance, and instead made the choice to focus on our shared humanity. We all cared, prayed and hoped in dozens of languages around the globe that they would be safely returned to their frantic families. It was hard not put yourself in the shoes of those parents if you are a parent yourself. It was also very painful to do so.

Why we choose to emotionally engage with people we don't even know in cases like this is a mystery. It seems to me that sometimes equally deserving people in terrible circumstances don't receive this universal compassion " instead they are criticized, accused of not taking accountability for themselves, or otherwise made to seem unimportant or unworthy of our care and concern. Sometimes, if the tragedy unfolding is beyond our national borders, shoulders are shrugged. In short, we ignore their humanity.

There are many times when we do see this spirit of compassion and cooperation on display and it never fails to inspire me, and fill me with hope for the future of our planet. I still remember a situation where a little toddler 18 months old fell far down a narrow well pipe in Texas and a herculean effort from a land-based team of technical experts got her out after several days. Her name was Jessica McClure, and this event happened in 1987. Those of you about my age may remember this too " another story that grabbed our hearts and still is in mine all these years later. When I picture that little girl at the bottom of the well, I think of my beloved granddaughter and I can't bear the thought of what Jessica's parents went through.

I am sure you can think of other situations like this. There are times when we live up to the ideals our creator wanted us to display every day; but so often we fail- as individuals, as communities, or as a nation.

I was fighting tears as I heard during that drive home that four more boys had joined the first four safely on the surface. I don't know these kids at all; no mind, as John Donne said so eloquently a long time ago:

""No man is an island; entire of itself. Every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main..."

"If a clod (of dirt) be washed away by the sea; Europe is the less..."

"Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind."

"And therefore, never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee."

You can reach me for commentary, alternative viewpoints or ideas at this e-mail address: Janiethibmartin@gmail.com.


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