Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Three Cups of Tea. Be cautious where you take your cup of tea.

"The first time you share tea with a Balti, you are a stranger. The second time you take tea, you are an honored guest. The third time you share a cup of tea, you become family."

Greg Mortenson  wrote,Three Cups of Tea and his group, Central Asia Institute, has been working for decades to build schools especially for girls in remote areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan. Initially, Greg promised to build one school to thank the local people who saved his life while he was mountain climbing in the remote region. He had the third cup of tea. His family is also now  many Pakistani and Afghan children. He continues to build schools.

His book and his group was investigated on 60 Minutes.
I did not hear the program but I heard a response which questioned future contributions. This response prompts me to caution against prejudging him and his group. Instead apply proverbs and history. Be cautious where you take your cup of tea.  Remember Henry Fonda's skepticism in the movie, Twelve Angry Men. This skepticism resulted in an innocent verdict, a total opposite of the initial jury vote.

Mr. Mortenson's strategy differs from the United States military strategy of top-down directives. For example, Mortenson consults with local councils about school needs and supports their goals. Perhaps there is a political motive from some dissatisfied individual or group that brought the magnifying glass.

Even President Obama in his firing of Shirley Sherrod, who was later vindicated, made mistakes due to limited information.

I urge you to stand by Mr. Mortenson and his group. Maybe this local bright spot has become a scapegoat for NGO groups.We should be skeptical of media reports just as the spokesman for the Pakistani government was quoted by the Christian Science Monitor:

The Pakistani government conferred the Star of Pakistan, the country's third highest civilian award, on Mortenson and invited him to take tea with President Asif Ali Zardari in 2009. President Zardari’s spokesman, Farhatullah Babar, told the Monitor the government was treating the allegations with caution. "One has to find out the detail because often a number of media reports turn out to be incorrect," he says. "Until one knows what the story really is, one can't move forward."

I heard Mr. Mortenson speak in person. I saw his eyes and heard the desire to do so much with working with local needs and values with so little resources. His enthusiasm and mission to effect change through building schools may move, Three Cups of Tea, from the non-fiction shelf to the autobiographical memoir genre of Maya Angelou.  

When humanitarians like him are so focused on the solutions they don't believe in explaining every detail to a 60 Minutes reporter. They trust people.

 I, too, will continue to trust in local bright spots like Greg Mortenson.  We need to support local bright spots because that is where change occurs. Locally. If 60 Minutes had focused on the bright spots like Greg's local council engagement two decades ago, how different would be today's 60 Minutes segment be - the contrast between top-down strategies versus community-generated strategies. Local bright spots are change agents. Remember Twelve Angry Men. One person in your face challenging your comfortable auto-response. I trust Greg Mortenson.

1 comment:

forestwalk/laura k said...

...maybe if everyone drank three cups of tea with the person next door...and across the street...and so on...the world would be a better place and everyone would get along...and have more compassion for their fellow human being...