Three Cups Of Tea: The Power Of One Person

Friday, June 11, 2010

I have a bookshelf full of adventure stories, young and old, travel tales from every corner of the earth, and tattered guidebooks from where I’ve been. I’m not the kind of person that likes clutter, but books I hold onto. Maybe it is a memorial of sorts. I like to think it is a testament to possibility.

None of those books sitting on my shelf is the best seller Three Cups of Tea. Nope. That book is nowhere to be found. The reason for its absence isn’t that I haven’t read it. I’ve read it, then lost it, then bought it a second time just to read it again. It’s simply the best book I’ve read in years. The reason it’s not on my shelf is that it’s the one book I’ve lent out so many times I’ve simply lost track of it. Somewhere, I believe in the hands of my friend in Cape Town, is the second worn copy with my name on the inside cover. It’s just so good, gripping, inspirational that I feel the need to pay it forward.

The story of Greg Mortenson and his Central Asia Institute is one of the world’s most powerful. A climber, in the wake of a wrong turn descending  Pakistan’s K2 in 1993, stumbles into a village willing to help out the struggling foreigner. He promises to return the favor in the shape of a school. Since then he has dedicated his life to the building of schools, over 60 now,  in some of the most remote regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan, often times with people Americans believe are enemies. His books, the latest Stones into Schools, have helped establish the CAI and a program called Pennies for Peace, which have collectively helped in the education of over 60,000 children.

What have you done lately?

In an article over at Worldhum, I was reminded of why I, and so many others, gravitated towards this story. Greg advises, when traveling, to:

[S]pend at least one day a week doing something a little different than what’s on the rest of your itinerary. Spend some time in a local café. Get to know somebody. Go visit a school. It’s uncomfortable for people at first, but often people say that’s the most significant part of the trip. [When you return home] try to continue just one of your relationships that you made on your trip.

His response to a question about the changes he’s seen as a result of this work is particularly poignant:

the changes I see in Afghanistan and Pakistan are, women who have an education are much less likely to encourage their sons to get into violence or into terrorism. I’ve seen that happen. The Taliban’s primary recruiting ground is illiterate or impoverished society.

One average person, and one failed attempt at climbing a mountain, has blossomed into changing lives. Changing lives for the better. Changing the world. With all of the negative news forced upon us, I feel almost honored to share a story like this. That is why you won’t find this book on my shelf.

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