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Holding Onto Hope, When Hope is Invisible

Like millions of other people around the world, I have been following the plight of the miners in Chile. Thirty-three men trapped 2,000 feet below the surface of everyday life for more than two months.  I barely slept last night, waiting and watching a high-tech live feed as the first few men were brought to the surface in a low-tech capsule.

I admit, I cried. For the men, certainly…and for their families and friends. In Chile, October 13 will probably become a national holiday.

But beyond than the individual stories, the successful rescue is a reminder that hope is never futile. I’m ashamed to report that I did not think the miners’ story would have a happy ending. Everyday, there was the possibility that something would turn this into a tragedy: The mine could have collapsed, the men could have perished of disease or toxins, or the Chilean government could have given up on rescue efforts. That none of those things happened, and that I am able to cry fresh tears as each miner is brought to the surface is, for me, nothing less than a miracle.

As I write this, the rescue has been going on for more than 11 hours. Twelve men have been rescued; 21 are still underground. I know that before I sleep tonight, all the men will be above ground and getting the care they need, the love they want, and the acclaim they deserve.

These men and their ordeal have reignited a pilot light of hope in the world. Lately, every disaster seems to end badly–Hurricane Katrina, the Twin Towers, the earthquake in Haiti, the fires in California, the mudslides in Mexico. Attorneys at this law firm have represented people who have lost limbs and lives in devastating circumstances, and I’ve been slowly learning to close off my heart to avoid the inevitable hurt.

But now, the Chilean miners have brought back the light. I thank God that the people involved in the rescue operation did not lose hope or heart. I thank God that the miners themselves did not lose strength. And I thank God that their families did not lose their spirit. The lesson for me is that hope should never be given up for dead, even when it is buried 2,000 feet below the surface of the earth…even when it is too dark to see…and especially when common sense says to give up.

There is no doubt that the miners will face health and psychological crises. They will have to deal with the media and book publishers and movie deals. Then, they will have to figure out how to live “normal” lives again. But these men have redefined courage and hope. I’ll never again have to fake a smile when I use that worn-out phrase: “There’s always hope.” It’s not so worn-out anymore, is it? There is always hope. Really.

UPDATE: The thirteenth miner just reached the surface! The count continues.

SECOND UPDATE: All 33 miners have been saved. Hope is alive and well for the first time in a very long time.

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