Saturday, 9 January 2010

Three Cups of Tea

The most inspiring book I've read in a very long time, Greg Mortenson's story is of the mysterious love a human being can have for strangers, and that understated love's capacity to inspire them to do the impossible. Greg has nothing... except a United States citizenship and a heart that carries his childhood of loving, inspiring strength.

To take on the building of one school, without any personal or institutional resources, in remote Karakoram mountains below K2 seems idealistic madness... To achieve it, and the many, many schools for boys and especially for girls, in this region, is the stuff of miracles.

Well worth the read, it has opened my heart and eyes and imagination to Pakistan, and also to Afghanistan - though I gather I now need to read the sequel, Stones into Schools, for more on the ongoing Afghan story. It's pre-ordered...

I work in education; I believe in its importance for opening minds and hearts to others, to possibilities that may be creative rather than destructive. Education without love can create monsters... And so I wonder how to encourage "my" students and staff to appreciate what an opportunity they have here, and also what challenges may face them if they are willing to share those opportunities with people of different backgrounds and cultures. Greg's respect and love for his country's perceived enemies has won hearts and is transforming lives, communities, and perhaps the face of future conflicts.

I'm touched by his humble simplicity - this is no hagiography. The account of his life and work is full of his mistakes, ignorance and naivete, not to mention the sacrifices made by his wife and children - and yet, and yet... it is this very honest humility which inspires us. If he can make such a big difference, with so little resource or proper organisation (at least at the outset!) what couldn't the rest of us do if we put our minds to it!?

Well-written, intriguing insights into a part of the world hitherto known to me only in two dimensions, I want everyone to read this and be genuinely inspired to make the world a better place.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Beauty and Danger

This morning I wrote on Facebook: "it's snowing... again! (beauty and danger) -not so good if you're queuing for an op. UDA are supposed to have decommissioned (worth waiting for? I hope so!). I wonder what mixture of beauty and trouble lies ahead... "

At 6pm, I heard another dangerous and strangely beautiful thing. Deeply saddening, and at the same time humanising, Peter Robinson barely held his composure whilst telling us of the crisis in his marriage and Iris' affair and suicide attempt. I've never met either Peter or Iris, but I have often disagreed with what I saw of them in the media. I have judged them for their apparent judgmentalism, and what has appeared to me their ungracious engagement with political opponents. Most recently I was angry with the First Minister for failing to show the minimum grace to the Catholic population and some normal humanity by issuing a statement on the passing of Cardinal Daly.

My heart was transformed by seeing him as a weak, pained, human being. How danger and fragility brings about beauty!

It was a beautiful thing, to hear him speak of his journey from wanting to ditch Iris, to realising he loves her, appreciates what it has cost her to be married to him, and wants to save their marriage work.

But the danger note was struck again when I heard him say, "I have done nothing wrong." I think he meant in terms of his role as First Minister, but it had broken the spell. For a second, I had thought he was saying, "I'm the victim here!"

So many righteous people think we have been injured and wronged (and so we have) but we fail to see how our way of being, our words, our rightness, have quietly crushed our neighbours, denied them access to our God, left them feeling that they could never be good enough... and how our failure to walk in others' shoes has led us to effectively exclude them from things that might have enabled them to live peaceably as our neighbours, even embrace us as brothers.

God, forgive me for judging the Robinsons, as if I knew what it was to be them. Teach me to let you be judge, while I learn to love as graciously as Jesus. Surround them with wise advisors and loving friends, and above all, let them find that their one real strength is in this: that you loved instead of judging, that you chose to die rather than punish... and so may the future of our land be found in the story of grace. As you give our First minister courage to forgive and rebuild, let us all be empowered to build a seriously better future. And let the powers that would drag us backwards to competing with each other instead find that the only real victory is in listening, giving, forgiving and sharing.

Monday, 4 January 2010

How far have we come?

Found this tonight, remembered, and wondered.... how long will it be before we're back there again? Please, God, make it a long, long time...

Thankful for Cara Dillon's soul... and the many like her who draw us towards a new future. Pity our "leaders" seem to be having such a rough time leading as statesmen, putting the good of the whole population ahead of the short-termism of perceived party priorities... Short term, because ultimately it is not in the interests of the parties - or at least, of the people who vote for them - to be stuck in the polarised hatreds and fears that enslaved us.

Please... please give us leaders who can see the bigger picture, statesmen and women who can rise above the next election and inspire another generation to integrity, generosity and courage.