Shoe polish and plastic bags

Like just about everyone I know, I was simply fascinated by the plight of the Chilean miners. I remain fascinated with their courage and am absolutely in awe of how they survived as a team and the steps they took to develop communications processes and leadership. It truly is beyond my comprehension how one could survive underground with 33 other people for 69 days. I could not picture myself living underground for any amount of time.

I found myself riveted to the TV for the two-day rescue.  And last week I had lunch with someone who planned to dress up for Halloween as a Chilean miner. They have captured our hearts as well as our pop culture.

Now that weeks have passed, I still feel incredibly interested in the plights of these men.  Two things in particular touched my heart. One is what they requested when learning their escape was imminent: they wanted shampoo and shoe polish to ensure they looked their best when they emerged. This spoke volumes about their pride, love for their families and interest in being survivors — not victims.  Second is what they have returned to in their lives above ground. Most of these men are going back to communities and neighborhoods with incredibly high rates of poverty and unemployment. News reports described many families who could not afford to buy white balloons to display for the men’s homecoming. Instead these folks had filled white plastic bags with air to display on fences and trees to welcome their loved ones home.

Resilience of the human spirit.  Love of family. Pride in who you are. Being thankful for what you have. These are all universal messages that emerged from this ordeal and spoke to us all.

But also we witnessed the need for longer-term solutions to issues that plague our communities, whether right here in North Carolina or across the globe. And through philanthropy, you and I have a role to play that can make a difference.