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?

11 Responses to Thai Boys, My Boys
  1. Matt
    July 12, 2018 | 3:39 pm

    The kids, the Coach, Mother Nature, the SEALs and everyone else trying to get them out – the whole thing had me transfixed. What a collective sigh of relief when the last group made it out alive.

  2. clark S Johnaon
    July 13, 2018 | 9:10 am

    David, Have so enjoyed so many of your wonderful writing and feelings over these many years, and find this one of the most touching of all. Blessings!!

  3. clark s johnson
    July 13, 2018 | 9:12 am

    David, have so enjoyed your comments and observations over many years and find this one most touching of all! Blessings !!

  4. frank johnson
    July 13, 2018 | 9:30 am

    It was a work together, memorable happening and it is interesting how an event miles away can bring people together to create a community. Perhaps it is because we are only intellectively and not personally involved. As you say each of us are so interdependent upon the other, so why is it so difficult to create a community at home where we can rely upon each other and “bind us together”.

  5. Mary Morant
    July 13, 2018 | 9:43 am

    David, I had the same tearful reaction and am in awe of the courage, bravery, and skills it took to get these boys out alive…down to the language that only one little boy spoke in order to communicate. A miracle…a much needed story in these challenging times.

    Thank you for putting into words as you always do how fragile our world is. And how fortunate most of us are.

  6. Betsy Pierpont
    July 13, 2018 | 11:25 am

    Your message, so wonderfully expressed, said it all for me- the fears of the children, the obstacles overcome, the brave persistence.
    I think also of the Thai Seal who gave his life for the rescue, which, prompted, perhaps, more oxygen provided in the tunnels.

  7. Bex
    July 13, 2018 | 11:33 am

    I read that the assistant coach, whose mistake it was that they boys were trapped, had spent some time in a Buddhist monastery, as many young Thai men do, and was able to teach the boys to meditate which helped keep them calm. Romans 8:28?

  8. Roger Stikeleather
    July 13, 2018 | 11:42 am

    Everything you wrote is spot on. I have nothing additional I could add or express. Thank you David.

  9. Shannon
    July 13, 2018 | 2:34 pm

    David – your words are always thought-provoking and inspire self-reflection. In this case, I felt compelled to comment because I wonder if others might struggling with something similar…which is how to translate “feeling” into action. I “feel” a lot, which leads me to believe I have a strong connection to humanity – both at home and abroad, and in familiar neighborhoods and foreign ones. At the same time, I wonder if my inability to translate those feelings into true, meaningful action actually calls into question the substance of that connection.

    • David Anderson
      July 13, 2018 | 3:38 pm

      That’s true, Shannon–feeling alone isn’t sufficient. It is necessary, though. If you don’t feel one with that other person, you can’t act. All of us struggle with what you’re naming–sometimes there are in fact things we can do. We can give of our time and be present to people in need, and we can give money to help assist them. So it’s important to make that part of our spiritual practice in life. But many times, and in many situations, we can’t do anything. But I always remember–when I see a person who is living on the margins, homeless, perhaps disabled…I remember that these people often say that strangers walking down the street will not even look at them, will not–that is–even acknowledge their presence and humanity. So, I try to remember that I can make eye contact and smile, I can nod a hello. I may be called upon in some instances to do more in that moment, but at least I can do that. And that matters–not only for the person being smiled at but for the smiler.

    July 13, 2018 | 4:28 pm

    David – Beautifully said. Ginny

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