Did you ever set out on a journey and the outcome was a direction you hadn’t planned on? In the book “Three Cups of Tea” written by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin, the story of a mountain climbing trip turned into humanitarian mission unfolds after Greg took a wrong turn into unfamiliar territory. The results were life changing for him and the people he met.
Greg Mortenson had begun a mountain climbing trip in a foreign country. He took a wrong turn and was separated from his guide. After surviving the elements, he made his way to a small village that he didn’t recall seeing on any map. It was in Islamic territory. The people there took him in and nursed him back to health. As they got to know him they stated that they were in desperate need of schools for their children. They did not have buildings, teachers or supplies.
As Greg grew to love the people, he committed himself to finding a way to help them. When he returned home, he set out to try to raise money. He sent out hundreds of letters with what seemed like no response at all. The first ones to respond with financial support were other mountain climbers. Perhaps they are determined people who believe that anything is possible.
Much of the story has intense moments but there was one humorous incident that broke the ice and allows us to laugh at ourselves. Greg had received a message from an elderly widow who stated that she wished to make a sizable donation but that he would have to come to her to receive it. He thought with her age it would be harmless so he went. When he arrived, she had three days of activities planned for the two of them. It started to look suspicious when one of the activities was a massage for both of them. He woke the next morning with the woman standing in front of the couch wearing a transparent night gown. It turned out that she was just a lonely old lady wanting companionship. There was no donation. He learned his lesson and used better judgement after that.
The intensity heightened on September 11, 2001 with the bombing in New York. That morning he was to have a dedication ceremony for his newly constructed school. The people woke him up stating what happened in his country. They expressed their sympathy and asked him not to judge them by the acts of horror done by others. When he went to the hotel, chaos had broken out and reporters wanted their story. Greg was thrust into political issues that he was not there for. Because he was helping the village people, he was questioned by authorities as to why he was there.
When Greg was seeking help, no one gave him the time of day. Now, he was talking with politicians and the military. He decided to keeping all funding in the private sector.
The schools were built and the people are a permanent part of his life. We can learn from his experiences not to judge others and that good things happen even through times of struggle.