December 15, 2009, I attended a presentation by Greg Mortenson, author of “Three Cups of Tea” and the recently released “Stones Into Schools”.  Greg’s work documents his efforts, first in Pakistan and now in Afghanistan, to bring education to the isolated villages scattered through-out the two countries.  

During his presentation to a packed gymnasium at Seattle Pacific University in Seattle, Greg recalled Martin Luther King who said Even if the world ends tomorrow, I will still plant my seed today.”  In addition, Greg shares that “In Africa, they say, ‘Educate a boy and you educate an individual. Educate a girl and you educate a community.'”

As I listened to Greg speak of his efforts in Pakistan, I found myself thinking of what Martin Luther King had said.  Taken another way, one might interpret that it is “never too late” to strive to make this world we call home a better place.  Granted, we can’t all do what Greg has done, but the point is that we do what we can and that cumulatively it can and will make a difference. 

As I stood in line waiting to enter the gymnasium, I spent some time talking with those close to me.  A comment was made that it is unfortunate we can’t all be like the Greg’s of the world, to which I responded that being different is fine, as we can all choose to contribute in our own way.  Greg has dedicated his life to actually building the schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan, my friend Sybille as part of her work and also as a volunteer spends time in refugee camps in third world countries teaching refugees how to use computers, and many others write checks.   Whether the volunteer time is one week or four, or the check big or small, it all adds up.  And that is what makes a difference – and it is never too late to start.

When I first read in “Three Cups of Tea” about the difference between educating a boy and educating a girl, I did not immediately fully comprehend the importance of what was being said.  Having read further, and having spent time thinking about it, I get it.  In hindsight, it seems so simple.  It does not matter whether we are talking about a small town in Ohio, a large city such as Los Angeles or a village in the mountains of Afghanistan, the role of women in our communities is undeniable.  But without education, women are denied those opportunities.

It seems clear that we can learn much from Greg Mortenson.  Many of our elected officials appear to be listening, and it is apparent our military in Afghanistan and elsewhere is listening.  Based on the reaction of those in attendance at Seattle Pacific University, members of our communities are also listening. 

In writing this, I encourage you to remember what Martin Luther King said and think about what or how you may contribute.  For starters, a few thoughts:

  • If you haven’t already done so, purchase or borrow a copy of “Three Cups of Tea”.  Read it, and I suspect you will soon be seeking a copy of “Stones to Schools”.  If you have already done so – great!
  • Many of us already support our favorite organizations.  If you don’t, find one and start today.  It does not matter whether you choose to volunteer your time at the local YMCA, tutor a student, become a Big Brother or Big Sister, or write a check.  It does not matter whether the time commitment is large or small, or the check is for few or many dollars – what matters is that you are one more person giving to those less fortunate.  Cumulatively, it does make a difference!

For more information on Greg Mortenson and his work, you may visit his website at


A few of my favorite organizations:

Windermere Foundation

Sound Experience and the Schooner Adventuress

Housing Hope

Center for Wooden Boats

Monroe/East County YMCA Invest-In-Youth