educating us all

June 25, 2008

I must admit that at first I was slightly impatient with reading Three Cups of Tea—the bestselling true story of a man building schools in Pakistan and Afganistan by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin— because of how heavily bogged down it gets with unnecessary details. However, I recently finished it and decided it was well worth the read for several reasons.

One good aspect was the recounting of Greg Mortenson’s money struggles. While he was doing everything he knew to work toward fulfilling his promise to build a school in the middle-of-nowhere town of Korphe, Pakistan, he slept in and lived out of his car because he couldn’t think of spending more money than necessary on rent or a place to live. He knew his money could provide a greater good than his personal comfort. I find it difficult to ever really know when it’s okay to indulge in my own comfort and satisfaction. Mortenson draws a line that initially leaves out the option of a comfortable place to live, but that line, which everyone must create for themselves, is such a difficult one to draw.

Mortenson’s story goes on to show the good that radiated out of his efforts to provide people with access to education as a way to create peace. About 250 pages into the book, 9/11 takes place while Greg Mortenson is in Pakistan having already spent years building positive relationships with a large network of people there, and from that point on, I found the book so interesting that I was a little sad when it ended.

A Pakistani man named Bashir offers a comment to Mortenson that comprises a pertinent passage of the book:

The enemy is ignorance. The only way to defeat it is to build relationships with these people . . . Otherwise the fight will go on forever” (310).

Ignorance is what creates the mentality of viewing others as enemies in the first place. It’s a force that is and has been all too present in our lives. As Americans, we have a high standard of living, and to allow large portions of the rest of the world to go on struggling through lives that lack sufficient access to education and basic needs is to turn our backs in the face of the poor. If we keep our vision glued to a safe frame that fails to include images of people in third world countries or disadvantaged people in our very own country, then we allow ourselves to wallow in ignorance. We would do well to spend our lives working against this type of ignorance

I found it interesting in the “Acknowledgments” section at the end of the book that Mortenson thanks his editor for giving in after multiple requests to change the subtitle of the book from “One Man’s Mission to Fight Terrorism and Build Nations … One School at a Time” to the subtitle that’s printed on the front of my book: “One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace … One School at a Time.” This book has been passed all around my peace-loving family, and I’m willing to bet it never would have appealed to any of us with the earlier subtitle. After all the talk of terror and war that has been floating in the air of our country, it’s a relief to hear the whisper of peace drift into our ears.

In summary, Three Cups of Tea is a great story in a decent book and we can never talk too much about peace.