I just finished Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin. Mortenson's work building schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan is inspiring and heroic. The book is the first of two chronicling his journey from a wayward, altitude sick climber at the foot of K2 into a force of nature - working alone to raise money to build a single school in one of the poorest regions in the world, and eventually into the creator and director of the Central Asia Institute which has as of 2009, established 130 schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan, which provide (or have provided) education to over 51,000 students, with an emphasis on girls’ education.
Jumping headlong into fatherhood, I have questioned the kind of world in which we are bringing a child. A world in which ignorance and hate are rewarded by talking heads; where the less you seem to know the more you are lauded as a "front runner" for a presidential run... for the presidency... of the United States... all of it. I watch my television screen aghast that there are people who so readily believe any blatant lie told them despite the mountains of evidence to the contrary. I wonder how, in an educated society such as ours, we've lost the ability to see the forest for the trees. We are so deeply entrenched in our beliefs and it is stunting our growth mentally and psychologically and we have been overrun by a small group of very very very loud, hate spewing, xenophobic ideologues.
And I am bringing a child into this.
But Mortenson's story gives me hope. One person can make a difference. One person can reach into the abyss of ignorance and fear - fear of "the other"- and change the entire world.
Mortenson was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize and lost to President Obama. This was a grave mistake. President Obama had not accomplished much to deserve the accolade in his first year, as he himself noted. Greg Mortenson went quietly about his business of taking on religious fundamentalists a world away without firing a single shot. He has empowered the people of the tribal regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan - people we only see on the evening news programs as "terrorists" and "the enemy" - and made them allies of us all.
He builds schools and he is changing an entire generation.
Having finished Three Cups of Tea, my hopes for my child remain the same, but my fears have abated. I know that deep down, the concerns of a parent in New York are the same as the concerns of a parent in St. Louis, or Salt Lake City or San Diego, are the same concerns as a parent in Paris, or Moscow, or Kaampen... or the Korphe village in Pakistan or the Wakhan Corridor in Afghanistan.
If you don't think one person can change the world, read this book. If you don't think people halfway around the world have the same concerns, the same hopes, the same dreams for their children... read this book. If you are a living, breathing human being on this planet... read this book.