Amazing Grace Coffeehouse
Thinking about space...

Three Cups of Tea and Other Small Solutions

Charlie sent me the following reflection and asked me to post it for him....

I just finished an incredible book that I want to recommend. It is "Three Cups of Tea" by Greg Mortenson and David Relin.

The book is an account of an American mountaineer, Greg Mortenson, who was lost and delirious after a failed 1993 attempt on the worlds second tallest peak, K2. Greg was rescued by residents of Korphe, a remote village high in the Pakistani Himalayas. Grateful for their assistance, Mortenson vowed to build the villagers a school. He returned home to San Francisco, sold everything he owned and then worked on raising money to build this school for the girls in this village. He sacrificed everything to bring this to fruition.

I was impressed at how he learned their language and lived as one of them. He first learned what THEY needed, which was a bridge to bring the supplies to build the school. Then, he made alliances with the leaders of the village to work together to meet their needs.

Greg was able to transcend tribal chiefs' skepticism and overcame their fears of his motives. Mr. Mortenson worked in many other villages in the Taliban heartland under almost impossible condictions.

After 13 years in which he has brought 58 schools to Pakistan and Afghanistan, Mortenson remains convinced that terrorism should be fought with books, not bombs. "Terrorism" happens because children aren't being offered a bright enough future, Mortenson told a gathering of U.S. Congress members not long after 9/11. Three Cups of Tea is an astonishing tale of compassion, committment and a selfless attitude without any ego satisfaction. It offers a model of how one person can make a difference in the world.

How can we participate in this work? Go to his website: Read his book. I hope we can find a way to support this remarkable example.

Also tonight Nan & I watched the Lehrer Hour. There was a segment about "Engineers Without Borders". These engineers go into remote villages and help bring clean water or sanitation to these people. It was encouraging to see some positive solutions to some of the worlds problems and how the people working on the projects had changed as they worked with these people. Are these some modern day "Prophets?.



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Robin Abello

When the 2006 Nobel Prize for Peace was awarded to Muhammad Yumus (famous for his application of the microcredit system and the founder of the Grameen Bank), the citation expressed that "lasting peace can not be achieved unless large population groups find ways in which to break out of poverty .... Development from below also serves to advance democracy and human rights".

There's so much opportunity to help the poor in the world yet there's also so much complexity in how to deliver this help. I've met a lot of Americans who go to 3rd world countries and feel overwhelmed when they see the poverty. Most end up not helping because they feel that there's only so little help that they can offer. But that's just a normal human reaction when faced with complexity. It's like trying to solve a big math problem that really needs to be broken up into pieces and tackled one-by-one.

I encourage everyone reading this post to help in their own little way. Find organizations to support like the one that Charlie mentioned. Visit their website. Get in touch with them. Send them money, no matter how little, every little bit helps. There are schools overseas that provide education to poor children for as little as $150/year and yes, they truly exist and yes, $150/year which is merely a new pair of Nike sneakers in the US, or one order of pizza a month is enough to provide a child's education for an entire year. One person can make a difference. And as you get involved with these organizations, maybe someday you'll get a chance to visit the school or village you're supporting and when you do, your experience will be life-changing.

Engineers without borders is a great example of how small projects can have big social impacts. Engineers who are trained to build bridges and large buildings go to remote villages overseas and build pumps that use centuries-old technology. Low tech, but high impact. The big engineering problem in these remote villages is clean water and decent sanitation. Things we take for granted in the western world. By addressing these problems, not only does the village get clean water and toilets, they also allow that little girl (who carries water back and forth to the village all day) to go back to school. And by going back to school, that little girls gets a chance for a better life and a better future.

Laura Shoemaker

Charlie, this Advent season has been one of understanding how diffused my vision is and how powerful a little focus on that vision could be. I appreciate you sharing your insights on this story. In the midst of so much, it helps for people around me to reflect on concrete ways that I could focus and make a difference. (And frankly, it helps when others can share what they glean from their reading...someday I'll be able to absorb more of that; for now I hope to glean from those willing to share. :))

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