The Boy Who Fell Into The Well

As the world held its breath…

Maybe you’re aware of the story about the 5 year-old Moroccan boy, Rayan Oram, who fell into a deep well his father had been repairing. If not, you can read it HERE.

For 4 days and nights, rescue teams worked around the clock, bringing in massive equipment, sparing no expense, no effort to save this little boy’s life.

It reminded me of similar stories in America: Kathy Fiscus was only 3 when she fell into an abandoned well in San Marino, California in 1949. Her story became part of the movie, Radio Days.

Any of us above the age of twelve almost certainly remembers the story of little Jessica McClure who was only 18 months old when she fell into a tiny abandoned well in Midland, Texas, in 1987. The well casing was only 8 inches in diameter.

Each of these stories, including Rayan’s last week, were widely covered by radio and television.

There’s something about the desperate attempts to rescue these children that almost compels us to listen.

At one point Friday, “…more than 100,000 people were monitoring one of the live streams that showed the trench where the rescuers, working day and night, were digging by bulldozer and by hand.” (NY Times)

#SaveRayan was a top trender around the world.

Prayers and messages of support poured in from every nation on earth, including from Algeria, not exactly on friendly terms with Morocco.

Sadly, by the time rescuers finally reached Rayan, he had died. The King of Morocco issued a statement of condolence. This little boy’s life and the struggle to save it transfixed our world for 4 days.

The question is, why?

As many as 15,000 children die every day from starvation, from war, from disease, from neglect.

We don’t have an accurate count of the exact number of children from Central America who die trying to reach safety with their parents across our southern border, but it may be in the hundreds annually.

Why did this one boy’s death affect so many of us?

It became personal.

We knew his name.

We could imagine the circumstance because it was made visible by voice and camera describing the anguish of his parents.

We became invested in the attempt to save his life.

And in this is a lesson for those of us who have chosen Radio as our stage…

1. Tell stories. Create a visual narrative that we can see in our minds and relate to easily.
2. Personalize your stories through details that humanize the subject.
3. Don’t be afraid to get emotional.

Hopefully, we will never again hear a new story about a little child falling down a deep well.

I think we all wish we would never again hear a story about the death of any child, but we know that’s not how life works.

Stories fill the hearts of every listener to your station, stories not widely shared, but just as impactful for those involved as Rayan’s story has been.

Stories of courage, of sacrifice, of overcoming obstacles that would stop most of us.

Find theses stories. Share them.

Because these stories have the power to bring us together, despite political affiliation and all the other ways we stand apart now in our little armed camps, yelling at each other.

These stories have the power to remind us that “they” – “we” – are just human beings hoping, as all parents hope, as all peoples hope, that their children have better lives, longer lives, hoping cancer or malaria or dysentery doesn’t win, hoping pain can be relieved, starvation and war can be avoided…

“They” are us! We all want life and health and safety and family bonds.

The preventable death of even one little child wounds us all once we personalize it.

You might take a minute to whisper a prayer for Rayan’s family today, grieving their terrible loss.

We can understand their grief because we can feel it too, even though we never met Rayan or his parents.

That’s the power you hold, the power of the words you choose to tell his story, to tell all the stories in your town.

And that’s using your gift, your stage, for the best purpose possible.