“It’s very rare we get to cover good news,” said the CNN anchor last night, teary-eyed. I was preparing to shut the TV off after hours of anticipation-filled viewing, tweeting, FB posting, and text messaging. Everyone I know seemed to be doing the same. “When,” he asked veteran newsman Larry King, “was the last time there was a story like this? Apollo 13?”
Has it really been 40 years since the world has felt hope? That’s a staggering thought for a different post on a different day. But while we are all feeling the love, let’s take a moment to acknowledge what the miners have taught us.
First and foremost: Social support is crucial. In their rescue interviews, most miners said the first seventeen days (before contact with the outside world was established) was the hardest. They spent much of their time writing love letters to their families. Once the men were discovered, rescue crews, concerned about their mental health, prioritized a borehole for video conferencing with family members. The rallied families bonded during their 70-day residency in the tents surrounding the mine. They supported each other, prayed with one another, and wrote notes to the men below who didn’t have loved ones nearby.
2. Leadership can take a disaster and make it manageable. Luis Alberto Urz?span> (54), shift supervisor of the trapped miners is credited with corralling the men, getting them to safety, rationing the food, assisting the rescue efforts, and keeping morale up. The most extreme example of his leadership? He stretched forty-eight hours worth of emergency food stores to last seventeen days. The last to be rescued, Urz?as greeted by 2,000 people including President Sebastian Pinera who called him “an inspiration” and assured him his “shift was now over.”
3. Work provides a vital sense of meaning. Original estimates predicted the miners would be saved between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Leaders in the mine like Urz?new restless men would fare worse than others. Each man had a job in the mine – from checking gas levels to reading to the men during meals. Each man’s job gave him an identity within the group and helped things flow smoothly.
4. Solidarity isn’t just an Elton John song from Billy Eliot – The Musical. The 33 miners lived the motto of the International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers’ Unions (ICEM), “the stronger the union the stronger the mine.” During their rescue interviews, the devotion to each other was crystal clear. Many wore garments and helmets decorated with “33″ and notes from their fellow miners. More than a few protested their trip to the hospital in hope they could stay and watch their friends be freed. Sources say there was much rejoicing in that hospital that night as each man reached the surface.
5. Hope isn’t a fluffy emotion found in greeting cards. It kept the men alive, their families sane, and the rescue teams motivated. Emily Dickinson famously wrote, “Hope is the thing with feathers/That perches in the soul.” In this case, it quite literally delivered the men up the 2,300 feet from their dark confines.
6. Silver linings are real. From the proposal of miner Esteban Rojas to his sweetheart Jessica Ganiez, to increased Chilean pride, and an international sense of awe, beautiful things came out of this tragedy. Relationships were forged, beliefs renewed, policies reconsidered. As President Pinera told Urz?ldquo;You are not the same, and the country is not the same after this.” I daresay the whole world is different.
7. The negative media bias is painfully real. Although not as dramatic, good things do happen everyday. It should not take a tragedy of this scale to get CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News to broadcast stories of hope and triumph. Consider where you are getting your news and what you discuss in bedrooms, boardrooms, and bars. Let’s change what people talk about so we don’t have to wait another 40 years for positive TV.
8. Celebrations are better shared. Just ask the 2,000 people who greeted the miners as they were rescued (including a full Korean news crew.) Joy is contagious and meant to be spread around. What can you celebrate today and whom can you invite to the party?
9. Hugs are awesome. A shocking discovery? No. Mind-boggling wisdom? Far from it. But the people I spoke to yesterday said their eyes were glued to the TV because of all the hugging. It felt good to watch. It felt good to just feel good. Moreover, a group from the University of North Carolina found that hugging reduces blood pressure and increases oxytocin levels. The levels must have been off the chart yesterday in Chile. I counted thirty-two hugs in one 10-minute span alone.
HUG TV anyone?