My book club read Three Cups of Tea last month. It was a fascinating read, particularly now with the Middle East in the news so much. It’s the story of an ordinary man who begins an extraordinary journey with a simple goal, to build a school for boys and girls in a remote village in Pakistan. After a failed attempt at climbing K2, Greg Mortenson wandered into the rural village of Korphe where he was nursed back to health by the impoverished, but generous people of the tiny village. Before he left he asked to see the village school and was shocked to see children huddled outside, scratching their lessons into the cold dirt. He vowed to return and build them a school. Greg Mortenson has since become director of an international non-profit organization that has built 80 schools in Afghanistan and Pakistan that not only educate children, but also help promote peace and tolerance in a volatile region that has become the focus of the war on terror.
When I look into the eyes of the children in Pakistan and Afghanistan, I see the eyes of my own children full of wonder – and I hope that we each do our part to leave them a legacy of peace instead of the perpetual cycle of violence, war, terrorism, racism, exploitation and bigotry that we have yet to conquer. ~Greg Mortenson
I want to say one other challenge that we face is simply that we must find an alternative to war and bloodshed. Anyone who feels, and there are still a lot of people who feel that way, that war can solve the social problems facing mankind is sleeping through a great revolution. President Kennedy said on one occasion, “Mankind must put an end to war or war will put an end to mankind.” The world must hear this. I pray to God that America will hear this before it is too late, because today we’re fighting a war.
Those are the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoken in 1968 at the National Cathedral in Washington D.C. At the time of his death forty years ago today, Dr. King was crusading to end hunger and to end the war in Vietnam. His views on that war caused a great deal of controversy at the time. He was branded “unpatriotic” and was widely criticized, not only by white America, but also by many leaders in the black community. The photo above was taken by Sgt. Curt Cashour of the U.S. Army of two soldiers with the 4th Brigade, 1st Infantry Division standing guard at a market in Al Doura in Baghdad. And so it goes…
When I downloaded Paul McCartney’s song Let it Be the other day from iTunes, I also found the version in the video above from the movie, Across the Universe. Sung by veteran stage actor Carol Woods and 15 year old Timothy Mitchum, the song is set against a scene depicting a family losing their son in Vietnam and the Detroit riots of 1967. I grew up in Detroit, only six miles from the epicenter of the riots. As a seven year old child at the time, I thought that the riots happened “downtown”, far away from my own quiet, tree lined street. And in many respects I suppose it was far away. As a white family, our experience of life in Detroit and in our country during the 60s was very different than that of African-Americans living only a handful of miles away.
When I look at Detroit today, I’m saddened to see that racial, social, and economic separation and isolation continues to have devastating effects on neighborhoods, on schools, and most importantly on children. And as I watch the nightly news and listen to the never ending debate over the political and military issues of the Iraq War, I can’t help but wonder if there ever really will “be an answer” or if mankind is destined to repeat the same mistakes over and over again. But you know, when I listen to beautiful music like the song Let it Be, when I see exquisite art and watch inspiring movies and plays, when I look up at the night sky and see the glory of a lunar eclipse, or when I look down and into the eyes of a newborn baby it gives me hope, and isn’t that what keeps us all putting one foot in front of the other most days?
One of my favorite quotes is by the poet Emily Dickinson, “Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul.” Isn’t that lovely? Have a peaceful and hope filled weekend dear readers:)