Friday, October 15, 2010

I Lost Interest in the Chilean Miners on Day 2

Although I would have to have my head in a hole not to know that on Day 69, the last one was brought to the surface, the tunnel was capped, and the international community gave a rousing standing ovation to the Chilean rescue effort, none of this captured my fascination. Nice work, everybody, now back to our regular programming.

I tried to muster my compassion and at least read an article about the rescue. But I got bored and started to skim two paragraphs in, when they started giving a book-jacket type bio of each miner in the order they were rescued. For real? Are we picking out heroes and villains for the TV Movie already? Based on?? I don’t know these men. I don’t share language or culture with them. The only reason they suddenly mattered to most Americans was because of the cameras pointed at them. If I were a geologist or something, I might have taken interest in the details of drill bits and torque, in case, some day in the future, I myself was responsible to free others from a half mile below the surface. If I were a specialist in Latin American politics, I might have been captivated by the political implications of all the positive media attention on a regime no one cared about back in July. But for that matter, how much did we care about those 30 miners back in July, either?

Do we care enough to lobby for safer mining in Chile and the U.S. (where our own mining mishaps have recently been considered newsworthy, as well)? Do we care enough to cut back on our use of the non-renewable resources these man go into the ground to retrieve for us?

I’m not heartless. I’m glad those men didn’t die in the mine. But how many multiples of 30 have died or languished in the last two months, while no expense or effort was spared for these guys? How many innocent lives were lost to things that such a font of attention and money could have prevented? I don’t know for sure, but I have the feeling that it’s a cheap fix to spend our compassion and jubilation on 30 Chilean miners, when there are people in need of rescue all around us. We’ll celebrate with Chile today, but then we go back to ignoring the people around us everyday, who are neglected and trapped by their own plights.

Just in our youth group, there are such deep and compelling needs. Broken families, grave illness, and drug addiction are just three of the many troubles confronting these kids and their families. I could turn myself inside out, trying to reach them in their every need and, short of adopting half a dozen more teenagers into my family, there are some needs I can’t address. But I know that if that kind of need and pain makes its way into a small youth group on the edge of the city, there are so many, such deeper needs, right in our own neighborhoods. So rather than sit in front of the TV, dispensing hours of love and compassion on 30 Chilean strangers that NBC says I should care about, I didn’t. Sorry, but I said a prayer and moved on. I was needed elsewhere and, frankly, I think you are, too.

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Matthew 9:36-37

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