It’s all relative

The 33 trapped Chilean miners have been above ground for less than 48 hours, and already I’ve found myself responding to my daughter’s everyday complaints like this: “You think doing your homework is bad? Try spending 69 days in a collapsed mine.”

As inspired as I was yesterday by each miner’s emergence from the rescue shaft (a scene oddly reminiscent of my banking materials popping up from the pneumatic tube at the drive-up teller), I have to think that at some point—maybe not right away, but definitely at some time—the miners will use the “trapped in a mine” card to trump, nay, crush whatever complaints come their way. Hot? Try spending 69 days underground at a constant, stuffy, 86 degrees surrounded by 2 ½ dozen guys and a shortage of clean clothes. Hungry? Meatloaf again sure beats 2 spoonfuls of tuna fish every 48 hours. Long line at the grocery store? Even a never-ending price check on Yoo-hoo ain’t like waiting 21 hours behind 32 other guys just so you can climb into a sardine can and finally see the sun.

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe the miners are as noble as they appeared coming out of the mine. Maybe “trapped in a mine” will never become their version of walking uphill both ways. I have to say, though, that in the very black and white world that is my emotional center, where on the worst of days I categorize all things as either a bonus or a disappointment, I’m going to try to keep the miners’ predicament in mind. Really, compared to being trapped for 10 weeks underground, what do I have to complain about? What reason do I have to be impatient? What, for me, is so terrible—ever?

And, as I can’t resist sharing, my poor kids are likely to hear the “trapped in a mine” refrain more than once. Don’t want to practice the trumpet? It’s a walk in the park compared to being trapped in a mine. If you were trapped in a mine for 69 days, you’d be so bored that you’d give your right arm to practice your trumpet. For that matter, if you happened to have your trumpet with you when the mine collapsed, much in the way guys in prison movies do (despite their incarceration), you could keep the men going! You could be the hero! One day, when you’re rescued, the men will credit you with the retention of their sanity, telling the worldwide press, “If it weren’t for Aztec Fire, Surfin’ USA, and the theme from Two and a Half Men, I’d have scooped my shift boss’s eyes out with a plastic spoon!”

Then again, I’m thinking that my child’s band director, having listened to the kids playing Aztec Fire and only Aztec Fire for the past 2 months, might appreciate a bit of a break. Not necessarily a 69-day break trapped in a collapsed mine, but, hey, you gotta start somewhere.