Sunday, July 19, 2009

3 Cups of Tea (Not a Book Review)

I recently joined the Code Pink Book Club, local group, which was begun by a member of Code Pink with whom I am friends. This month, we chose not to read the recommended Code Pink book but instead we read Greg Mortenson’s Three Cups of Tea. If you haven’t read the book, it’s about Greg’s passionate mission to build secular schools throughout Pakistan and Afghanistan. These schools educate both boys and girls and offer an alternative to political Islam’s religious extremist schools that are used as a breeding ground for soldiers. Greg says he’s working for peace one school at a time. He really is. One day he will win the Nobel. And when he does, I have no doubt he will be thoroughly embarrassed by the attention, although excited about the money it will bring in for more schools.

When I finished Greg’s book, I felt inadequate. He has risked his life, endured great personal discomfort, and spent months at a time on the other side of the world from his family to dedicate his life to the important work of making a difference in the lives of others. I, on the other hand, would not place risking my life high on my list of entertainment. And I enjoy my creature comforts. In fact, I usually bring my own pillow with me when I travel. I wouldn’t last one night sleeping on the ground in Afghanistan. I was never apart from my children for more than a few days until they left home for college (with the exception of a couple of weeks of sleep-away camp during a few summers). I don’t measure up to Greg on the personal sacrifice yardstick. But what about the making a difference? Because that’s what matters to me.

Then it came to me that I have made a difference in perhaps as many lives as he has, but I have done so with far less bravery, effort, and drama. I have secured the funding necessary to launch and maintain programs that have changed the lives of thousands, many of whom are impoverished children. In doing so, I have had the privilege to work with dedicated people nationwide who regularly put in more than 40 hours a week and use all their ingenuity to make a difference in the lives of others. We have not trekked over miles of rock or dodged bullets. We sleep in a comfortable bed. And we do our best each in our own way. Miracles come in many shapes and sizes. I am proud to be among the ranks of the behind-the-scenes, undramatic, everyday miracle-makers.

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