I recently finished reading Greg Mortenson’s new book, Stones into Schools, sequel to Three Cups of Tea. I feel something rising in my heart that I have not felt for my country or the world in a very long time–hope.
St. Paul wrote that three things would always abide–faith, hope and love, and that the greatest of these is love. As one who teaches others how to create restorative culture in their classrooms and organizations–a concept firmly grounded in the idea that all behavior is the product of what we believe about ourselves, others and how we should respond to the world–I am struck by the order Paul has listed these three abiding qualities.
First, faith. For anything to become, there must first be the thought; the thought repeated until it is solid and ingrained–a belief. When we believe, we have faith. Faith is defined in the dictionary as a belief in which we have, or that allows us to have, confidence and trust. That surety, according to ancient wisdom, religious teachings (based on ancient wisdom), and “new” quantum scientific proofs, is what creates our experience (our reality) and has proven to effect physical, material matter.
When we are able to raise up our heads in confidence, with trust, believing that our thoughts and desires for a better world–for healing, for reconciliation, for peace, for beauty–our hearts are flooded with hope. Hope allows us to smile. Hope sets our feet to dancing. Hope sings.
And when my heart is so full of hope, how can I not love? When my faith and my hope have sent Fear flying in retreat, Love fills up all those spaces previously occupied by the boggart. And it is Love that permeates the entire universe; Love is the very fiber of which it is woven. So of course, of the three things that will abide, Faith, Hope and Love, the greatest would be Love. But the other two are necessary. Without them, we might remain closed off from Love, tyrannized by boggarts, even for a lifetime.
“Haji Ali (Head Man in Korphe village, Pakistan) said (to Greg Mortenson), ‘The first cup of tea you share with us, you are a stranger. The second cup, you are a friend. But with the third cup, you become family—and for our families we are willing to do anything, even die.’ Of the many lessons that that old man imparted to me, this was perhaps the greatest. It underscores the paramount importance of taking the time to build relationships, while simultaneously affirming the basic truth that in order to get things done in this part of the world, it is essential to listen with humility to what others have to say. The solution to every problem, Haji Ali firmly believed, begins with drinking tea. And so it has proven.”
Greg Mortenson, Stones into Schools
Three Cups of Tea was inspiring, but Stones into Schools renewed my faith and hope in my people, in the leaders of our military, in our future. First, to read that Greg and the Central Asia Institute (CAI) have built over a hundred schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan–most of them for girls–in the past 10 years was exciting. That many of the schools are in the heart of Taliban territory, was amazing. To know that thousands of ordinary Americans are supporting the CAI in this endeavor, including many American schools and students, was thrilling. But when I began to read about how leaders in our military, leaders such as General Mike Mullen and General David Patraeus began to consult with Greg and his organization, require Three Cups of Tea to be read by military commanding officers, and have been in full agreement with Greg’s belief that terrorism will not be defeated with bombs and war machines, but by education and the building of relationships between the people of Afghanistan and Americans (military especially), hope began to break through the crust of my synicism and anger. I read the last chapters of the book with tears streaming down my cheeks. These were not tears of despair, but tears of relief and hope.
I was struck by the sheer magnitude of the mountains that have been moved by Greg’s unwavering faith in the goodness of people. Despite the terrible things he has seen, the damage done by selfish, greedy and powerful people on both sides of his world, despite mistakes made by himself and others, he gets up every morning to offer his life as a gift and see what good may be done. He is not so quick to make assumptions or to judge, even when he feels angry and his heart is grieved by what he sees happening. He has learned to the very core of his being the value of hearing the other person’s story. He has learned the value of first drinking tea with the other, even one you might think is your enemy.
Cannot I do the same? Could not we all?