A friend mentioned the book Three Cups of Tea to me in passing not too long ago and I decided to check it out. Reading the cover didn’t excite me. In fact, I worried a bit that I wouldn’t like the subject matter. Some guy climbing K2? A bunch of kids in Pakistan? Booooorrring.
A few weeks and 3/4 of the book later, I’m so glad I gave it a chance. Three Cups of Tea has been one of those paradigm shifting books in my life. Although the writing itself leaves a lot to be desired, the story behind the clumsy prose has won me over. I’m in awe of Greg Mortenson and how he has dedicated his life to educating children, especially girls, in some of the most dangerous places on earth. This man was hit with a vision and he stuck through it despite overwhelming challenges and opposition repeatedly thrust against him. Greg does not care about material things in life; choosing instead to forego many commonplace American luxuries in order to spend his money on schools and supplies for those who need it so desperately.
I pride myself on being open-minded and lacking prejudice or sweeping generalizations of groups. A real humanitarian, that’s me. Three Cups of Tea opened my eyes to some serious self-delusions. I’ve come to see just how narrow my mindset really is. For instance: immediately after 9/11 my “American Pride” was surging high. I mourned all of those we lost, and hated those who caused their deaths. Someone said, “We should just bomb the whole Middle East into a parking lot and we can start over with a clean slate.” Something about that statement bothered me deep down, but on the surface I rallied. “Yeah! Screw all of ‘them’”, I thought.
Mortenson puts a face and a life story to “them” and I’m immediately ashamed for my past thoughts. I was too close-minded to realize that “they” don’t like Bin Laden or the Taliban any more than we do. And their lives have been far worse affected by those evil forces than Americans can even begin to fathom. I’m also ashamed of how poorly my country handled the entire situation – and continues to handle the situation in Pakistan, Afghanistan and surrounding areas.
If everyone could come to know, as I have, Haji Ali – the man who saved Mortenson’s life and went on to serve as his wise mentor – or Syed Abbas, the Muslim cleric who implored Americans to “look into our hearts and see that the great majority of us are not terrorists, but good and simple people.”, I truly believe this world would be a better place.
Have you read Three Cups of Tea? What were your thoughts?