A library copy of Three Cups of Tea, the story of Greg Mortenson and his building of schools in Pakistan, was deposited in my teacher mailbox at work, and as my school gets ready for its first “community read,” I have now finished the book that has been on my list to read since it was published. Though it wasn’t the most well written book, it is impossible to not walk away from it thinking.
First, one of the parts that was most inspiring was Greg Mortenson’s story itself: he was not someone with money to burn. A mountain climber whose experiences descending K2 made him vow to come back and build a school, Greg was living in a car with a virtually nonexistent bank account. It’s clear that his passions took priority in his life: he would rather scrimp by in order to get to the next adventure, and after a Pakistani village took him in, building a school for them became the next reason to rally. I know that it’s not news to anyone that when choosing to live out your passion, sacrifice is involved. It just never stops being poetic.
I wrestle all the time thinking about how meaningful change comes about in the world–or in an individual life. I know that it involves an intricate, complex web of various macrosystems, I still feel convinced that change happens–as Mortenson shares–one cup of tea at a time. Mortenson did not walk into Pakistan thinking that as a citizen of a wealthy, powerful country he knew abest. He took the time to know the people: to learn their languages, understand their customs and values and honor their faith and traditions. In response, people trusted him and his vision because they got to know him and his values.
And, obviously because I am a teacher, it was refreshing to read this story because it truly values education. Though it is one of the slowest ways to see change–just like taking the time to talk over tea slows down the process of conducting business– education is the key to a healthier world, and I honestly don’t think such an idea is naive or overly idealistic. Rather, it’s a different kind of priority: one that requires patience and dedication and constant reminding of a vision for true good.