Staff Editorial: Compassion evoked by miners' plight

The mosque. The Gulf spill. Midterm elections. Jobless recovery. Natural disasters around the world. Ballooning deficits at all levels of government. The ruling on Proposition 8. The leak of military documents. Responses to alleged and real racism. The end of the Iraq War.

These and other events marked a summer of political controversy, one in which an increasingly frustrated electorate waited for solutions and answers that never seemed to satisfy. With the country engaged in difficult and stressful debates on a number of very serious topics, unity of opinion is difficult to come by. One story that united us all, though, came in the form of 33 Chilean miners who continue to survive the unimaginable.

Trapped in an underground mine since Aug. 5, the men have only recently regained contact with the outside world and they face a wait as long as four months before drillers are able to reach their location and begin a rescue operation. In an era of remarkably sophisticated technology and great resources it seems almost absurd that human beings can be so unreachable, so painstakingly isolated that no amount of energy, wealth or selfless charity can meaningfully expedite their return to safety. These men are facing an incredibly trying situation with only their faith, their camaraderie and a small supply tube to carry them through what must feel like an eternity.

Every day, people in all parts of the world face devastating realities that dollars cannot ease, and still we are charged to do the best we can to "do our part" in society and entrust our leaders to do the same. Many problems can be addressed through careful planning and cooperation, and many more are controlled by forces beyond our reach. It is unlikely that many of us will ever experience such testing circumstances as these 33 men are living even as this goes to print, and it is impossible to imagine what it would be like to do so.

Where imagination fails, though, compassion remains. In full cognizance of the fact that words on a page do little to aid those who need the most basic kinds of help, we extend in lieu of an opinion our thoughts, our hope and our prayers.