Three cups of inspiration

Listening to world news, it is difficult for most of us to not feel powerless or apathetic at times. Local libraries are offering the perfect cure with their Jackson County Reads selection "Three Cups of Tea."

"Three Cups of Tea," co-authored by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin, is the bestselling account of Mortenson's efforts to build a school in a remote region of Pakistan. It tells the story of how Mortenson, a mountaineer and nurse from Montana, is taken in and nursed back to health by Pakistani villagers after his exhausting and failed attempt to climb K2. Before leaving the village, he promises to return one day and build them a school. Mortenson keeps his promise, which leads to an amazing humanitarian campaign to educate children in the region and counteract extremism by building schools throughout the breeding grounds of the Taliban.

Mortenson's adventure is unforgettable and deeply inspiring. I'm usually skeptical of blockbuster books that recount some act of extraordinary altruism by ordinary people. I've read several where it turned out the hero had a huge trust fund or was better at self-promotion than effecting any real change.

But the story in "Three Cups of Tea" is genuine, and beautiful in so many ways. It is one of the few books of this type in which you can ignore some bits of clumsy writing and focus happily on the meat of the story. What strikes me about the book is not only Mortenson's accomplishment, but how very human the entire effort is. He goes to incredible lengths to create the school he promised, and he makes colossal mistakes in the process. Often flighty or ill-prepared, he really is just a regular guy doing a fantastic thing. If anything can inspire people to get up and be the change they want to see, it's this book.

The Ashland library is kicking off the countywide book event with a series of discussions and activities. The first, a discussion of "Three Cups of Tea" by librarian Amy Kinard, is planned at 1 p.m. Saturday in the Guanajuato Room at the library, 410 Siskiyou Blvd.

"I am so excited about these events," says Amy Blossom, Ashland library branch manager. "It's great that we are doing this book at this time. We're trying to emphasize the idea that anyone can make a difference in the lives of others."

The library will host a talk by Bill and Sue Seager from 2 to 3 p.m. Sunday. The Seagers will describe life in Pakistan and what they've learned of the country, its people and customs after living in the region for 10 years.

On Wednesday, the library will present "Beyond the Call," a film described as "part Indiana Jones and part Mother Teresa." It documents the efforts of three eccentric, middle-aged men who travel the world delivering lifesaving aid directly to those who need it. The film trailer alone is inspiring, so the full movie is sure to be good. Take a peek at "Beyond The Call" will be screened from 7 to 8:30 p.m. in the Gresham Room.

On March 14, Steve Scholl, an independent scholar of Islam and comparative religion, will offer a talk on "Understanding Islam" from 2 to 2:30 p.m. in the Gresham Room.

Even the children's library is getting in on the action by featuring Mortenson's picture book for kids, "Listen to the Wind, the story of Dr. Greg and Three Cups of Tea." The story is told from the perspective of the children of Korphe, the village where Mortenson helped build the first school, and is illustrated by co-author Susan L. Roth.

Whether you are a hard-working activist or feeling a bit apathetic about the state of the world, mark your calendar to attend one or more of these events. If you're too busy (or complacent) to attend an event, then at least stop by the library and browse the growing display of books that explore the theme of making a difference. Who knows what might happen. So many great things have begun with just such a small step. For more information, visit or call (541) 774-6996.

Reach freelance writer Angela Howe-Decker at

Share This Story