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Three Cups of Tea

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Three Cups of Tea

Dr. Christiane Northrup
Dr. Christiane Northrup More by this author
Sep 03, 2010 at 03:31 AM 0 comments

One Sunday morning I was watching CBS This Morning, one of my favorite programs, and learned that Greg Mortenson, the author of the bestselling book Three Cups of Tea and the more recent Stones into Schools, was going to be a guest on Face the Nation, a show I rarely watch. (I find that watching politicians on television is not particularly good for my health.) I decided to stay tuned. And I was completely uplifted.

You probably know Mortenson’s story. After climbing (the mountain) K2 in Pakistan 17 years ago, he was resting up in a local village and was inspired to do something to help educate the local children. He has since started 150 schools, some in Taliban areas, and has helped thousands of children get an education, most of them girls. Along the way, he has also been kidnapped, threatened, and vilified even by individuals in the United States, following the terrorist attacks of 9/11.

The moment that really got my attention during the interview was the fact that Mortenson’s book, which is all about establishing relationships, is now required reading for all senior military commanders (and other military personnel). Mortenson said this came about because the wives of the some of the top generals had read the book and then asked their husbands to read it. (That’s how I got my very first PBS special. My producer’s wife read Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom and asked her husband to contact me to get the information on television.) I was reminded of the line in My Big Fat Greek Wedding when the wife says, “The man may be the head of the household, but the woman is the neck, and she can turn the head anyway she wants.”

As I listened to Mortenson, I was struck by the fact that his effectiveness, over the long haul, came first from his absolute commitment to his goal and second from his knowledge of what it takes to establish relationships that work. Before we do anything, he says, we need to have those relationships in place. He also said, “It’s not about helping people. It’s about empowering them. You need local buy in. You’ve got to get the elders involved.”

I couldn’t help but see how this same approach also applies to improving the health of a community or your family. You set a goal and then, over time, work toward relationships with schools, restaurants, and grocery stores to help you reach your goals. We’re so much more effective when we work as a team than when we are as a voice crying in the wilderness.

As Bob Schieffer interviewed Mortenson, he shared this statistic: Ten years ago, there were 800,000 children in school in Afghanistan; now over 8 million children are in school in Afghanistan, including 2.8 million females. The way I see it, if Mortenson can help thousands and thousands of girls in Pakistan and Afghanistan get an education, imagine what we can do in our own back yards? My mind reels with the possibilities.

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