What a Rescue in Thailand Can Teach Us About Entertainment … and Life


It’s nice to read a happy ending now and then.

Like much of the world, I’ve been following the story of a Thailand soccer team—12 boys and a coach—who’d been trapped in a flooded cave for more than two weeks. Rescuers were racing ’round the clock to save the team before heavy rains made rescue impossible. The operation involved hundreds of experts around the world and claimed the life of a would-be rescuer. When I read that the boys had been rescued, I smiled. The story lifted a bit of heaviness from my heart. A happy ending, I thought.

Funny how we can get so wrapped up in the fates of a dozen kids we didn’t know existed before June 23rd, kids we’ll likely never meet. Funny, but so natural. So very much in line with the kind of people God has wired us to be.

According to stats from the Central Intelligence Agency, about 151,600 people will die today. If it’s taken you a minute to read this blog, more than 100 folks have died since we’ve been together here.

We don’t give those deaths much thought, of course. How can we? We don’t know these people. For us, those figures are simply stats—numbers on a page or a computer screen.

But if we know someone behind the stat—even if that level of knowing is small—they cease to be a number. They become a story, one that touches our own. The numbers tell us things, yes, and important things. But stories … they’re on a different level.

About the time these dozen boys and their coach got trapped in the caves, the Spring Creek Fire broke out in southern Colorado. Nothing unusual in that, really: Colorado, with its forest and mountains, is prone to forest fires, particularly in a year as hot as this one’s been. At least 10 are burning in the state right now, torching nearly 200,000 acres. (More numbers.)

But for us, the Spring Creek fire took on a different level of interest and urgency. See, my family owns a cabin down there. We know many people down there. Every day, we watched more and more of the land we’ve come to know and love be lapped up by the ravenous flames.

Part of my story was and is down in that charred part of Colorado. And as such, the Spring Creek Fire—which you’ve probably not heard of ’til just now—is part of that story now, too.

This point I’m about to make is well-tilled ground, but I think it’s a point worth making again: We are creatures of story. Through story, we know each other a bit better. You tell me a bit of yours. I tell you a bit of mine.

But those stories don’t live in a vacuum. In a way, our own stories impact the stories of other people. Even as we all write our own, we all write maybe just a tiny bit of each other’s, too. And when we dare to enter into someone else’s story, we’re changed, too.

I wonder whether those boys in Thailand are alive because someone told their story. If  the world had not heard it, would as much effort have been made to find them when they went missing? Once they were found in the cave, did agencies and governments and experts push themselves a little harder, because they—and we—had seen their faces?

We deal with story a lot here at Plugged In, most obviously in the media we review: movies, books, television, games, music. All are conduits for story. We take it seriously because storytelling is serious, impactful business. We see the faces. We watch them walk through moments of comedy or heroism or grief. We can be, in big ways and small, shaped by them.

But we shape those stories, too—pushing them through our own engines of idea and experience. Even when we watch the same movie, we may see see something different. It’s why we tend to stay away from “go/don’t go” proclamations at Plugged In, and another reason why our old ratings system was so imperfect. Simple numbers and complex storytelling don’t play well together sometimes.

The Thailand cave rescue reminded me of all that. But it also reminded me of this, something that perhaps, as Christians tasked with being God’s servants here on earth, we should be particularly mindful of: how important it is to enter into other people’s stories.

We see strangers every day. We engage in simple, surface interactions with business associates or classmates. But each person we see hides a much deeper story—one with heroes and villains, drama and comedy and, sometimes, desperate need. I don’t think we need to get to nosy with folks around us. But if we find an opening and an excuse to enter into someone else’s story, take it. You just might help turn that story around … and in so doing, change your own, too.

Who wrote this?

Paul Asay has been writing for Plugged In since 2007 and loves superheroes and finding God in unexpected places. In addition, Paul has also written several books, with his newest—Burning Bush 2.0—recently published by Abingdon Press. When Paul’s not reviewing movies, he hikes with his wife, Wendy, runs marathons with his grown kids, Colin and Emily, and beats back unruly houseplants. Follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.

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