What We Can All Learn From the Trapped Thailand Soccer Kids

by Heather Robinson

From The New York Post

This week, the world watched with bated breath as 12 boys, members of The Wild Boars soccer team, and their coach were rescued from deep inside an underwater cave in Thailand.

It was a situation that had seemed beyond hope and yet, the boys’ steely determination and preternatural calm stand as a lesson to Americans letting every political fight further tear society at the seams.

The boys, ages 11 to 16, went missing on June 23 after deciding to explore a cave near Mae Sai, on the Thailand-Myanmar border. Torrential rain fell unexpectedly, and the waters rose, forcing them deeper inside.

For nine full days, the boys and their coach survived, together, in near total darkness, on a ledge surrounded by water, with no sustenance or contact with the world, before their location was discovered by an international team of rescue divers. Their trial wasn’t over yet; it would be another nine days until the last four and their coach were rescued on Tuesday.

British, American, Chinese, Belgian and other volunteer divers assisted the Thai Navy SEALs, forming teams that pushed forward 200 meters at a time, passing oxygen in a “daisy chain” through sharp, labyrinthine passages that claimed the life of Saman Gunan, one heroic Navy SEAL who died in the effort to rescue the boys.

Israeli entrepreneurs provided the video and voice linkage to the boys, and the radio system that helped enable the rescue operation. And Ruengrit Changkwanyuen, a Thai diving enthusiast, reportedly briefed and trained the Thai SEALS in cave-diving, which is different from the combat and rescue they had been trained for.

Of course, the practical skills of engineers, technology experts, divers and military top the list of what enabled this rescue effort. But there’s another story here — one of quiet emotional fortitude, solidarity and spiritual strength.

Surely if the boys or their coach had panicked or turned on one another in the darkness, they couldn’t have survived. The boys’ coach, 25-year-old Ekapol Chanthawong, had worked with them — even choosing the name “Wild Boars” (“Moo Ba” in Thai) — to build their self-esteem. Mostly poor children who, in a soccer-obsessed country, had been rejected by their school teams, the boys found camaraderie on the Boars.

A Buddhist monk as well as soccer coach, Chanthawong instructed the boys to meditateto help them through the nightmare. According to some reports, the boys and their coach assembled a list of who would be rescued first.

The maturity and spiritual selflessness of their behavior is truly staggering.

At a time when most Americans, though comparatively comfortable, struggle to remain positive, work together and problem-solve, the Wild Boars stand as a reproach.

“As time went by, my belief is these boys didn’t get weaker and more disconsolate, they became the Wild Boars they came together to be,” said Bob Trask, a Unity Church minister from Bellingham, Wash. “They got that strong sense of community from their coach.”

Timothy Cardinal Dolan of New York agreed: “At a time when we seem to be wallowing in a sense of fracture and disunity in the United States and the world, to see the world act as one on behalf of these kids in distress — Hallelujah!”

Buddhism, according to Kadem Morton, principal teacher at Kadafa Meditation Center of New York City, preaches just this type of inner calm in the face of life’s difficulties. It also stresses kindness and interdependence.

The rescue shows that “everyone is longing to do something good and meaningful, and if you give people the opportunity to put themselves on the line to be of benefit to others, people will do it,” he said.

“America is in a lot of trouble,” said Trask. “We are way back in a cave. Now the water has come and we’re stuck. We have to come together in trust.”

He added: “If we become fragmented, stuck in, ‘I hate Trump, I hate the liberals,’ we’ll stay stuck. We must stop this … so we can come back out of this cave.”

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