Thai Boys, My Boys


On Tuesday, when the last four boys and their coach were rescued from that watery cave/grave in Thailand, I was alone in my car listening to the radio. As I heard how young boys who could not swim—much less cave-dive in inky blackness—were fitted with masks and led underwater through harrowing passages, I found myself fighting back tears. I swallowed the lump in my throat, embarrassed that I was having such an emotional reaction to people I didn’t know, 8,000 miles across the globe. But it didn’t go away.

Those willowy kids became every boy I knew. The children I taught and played with last week at Summer Camp, the beautiful young men in blue blazers who knelt before the bishop for Confirmation a few Saturdays last. My grandson. Every boy who ever joined a team and went on an outing. A lost boy is everybody’s child.

In the upsurge of tears my body was telling me what my mind doesn’t quite know, that I was related to these children and their fate was mine. That moment alone in my car told me the truth about life. Somehow we know in our depths—the place where the tears come from—that our little separate life is an illusion, that a lifeline connects us like an umbilical cord to every other person, and in fact to the whole creation. That’s the fact. And yet we are bombarded with messages that say, You are all that matters. Or, Your nuclear family is all that matters. Your security is the whole game. We are told, The only people you need to worry about are the ones who look like you, who went to your school. The others—they may have problems, but that is not really your concern.

And then you see one picture of a refugee boy in blue shorts washed up on a Turkish beach and your guts betray your insouciant mind and claim your shared humanity. You see one child crying at the border for her mother and for a split second you think you’re seeing your own daughter and your depths surge up the truth. She’s yours.

It’s a beautiful thing that we are created for community, that the knowledge of our common humanity is embedded in the holy helix of our every cell, so that even when our minds want to believe the selfish illusion of a separate individuality our blood will not allow it.

What that tells me is, we don’t have to worry too much about knowing and following what is good and true. The truth is stamped in our marrow: imago dei. All you and I have to do is pay attention to our guts, as indelicate as that may sound. No matter what we “believe” they will always well up the truth. You can trust that.

If you find yourself, like me, tearing up at the sight of those Thai boys, go ahead and have a good cry. Who would not weep if their son was lost and now is found, was dead and now is alive?

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