I just finished Three Cups of Tea. Not actual cups of tea, the book about a man who builds schools for children, including girls, in Pakistan and Afgahistan.
This guy has got a lot of pluck, and I can't help but love it. Here's the scene: He's just failed an attempt at climbing K2, one of the jewels of a mountain climber's crown, and has stumbled, lost and starving, into a northern Pakistan town. After being nursed to health by the impoverished village's hospitality, he puts his hands on the leader's shoulders, and promises to build them a school. (Image courtesy Greg Mortenson, Central Asia Institute)
Did I mention this guy is a virtually unemployed climbing bum and lives out of his car in San Francisco?
We all dream of doing great things. Once I get a degree and some cash in the bank, I'm really gonna make a difference. Once I've put in a couple years at this company, I'm gonna pursue that dream. Once I've, once I've, once I've.
Not this crazy guy. He doesn't know anything about building schools. He doesn't know much about the culture, other than what a climber picks up. Sleeping in his car, he seems like a good beneficiary for charity, rather than the benefactor. But he just seems to have seen the situation differently from how one of us "normal" people would have. He didn't see any of these obstacles, but only the need to do something. He naively wrote 580 letters to people like Oprah and Tom Brokaw and Susan Sarandon, asking for help. He actually believed that a guy without any background, credentials, or money could do something.
And it worked.
Now the Central Asian Institute, which he started, has begun dozens of schools in a part of the world where education was not an option for many children and most girls.
Of course, there's a lot to be said for careful planning and study. He did end up getting kidnapped once and had his school supplies hijacked another time for lack of foresight. And it does help to have an understanding of development before rushing out to "develop" other communities. (Sometimes our well-intentioned hurried aid can have unintentional negative impacts.)
But I still have to love a guy who has a crazy idea...and just does it. And he hasn't quit. If he is impulsive, he's also resilient. Now 15 years later, he's still committed every single day to that promise he impulsively made many years ago, upon seeing a need.
I hope to be like this guy. Not the kidnapping thing. But the ability to look beyond limitations, to not be blinded by obstacles. To have vision and dreams bigger than any of my fears.