Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Mother Teresa, Greg Mortenson, and the rest of us

Right now, the book in my work purse is Three Cups of Tea - detailing Greg Mortenson's efforts to bring a little relief to Pakistan and Afghanistan. I'm at the part where he mentions his admiration for Mother Teresa. Since I recently read a biography on her, and even though both books are pretty good examples of hagiography, the reference prompted some thought about what it takes to be that dedicated to helping others. A lot of conviction, a fair amount of indifference to personal discomfort, an expansive love for humanity, a dash of arrogance, and maybe a little ignorance? I don't know. I wonder if it's something we can build in ourselves - or even if we should. I guess there are other examples of "mountain movers" who aren't so positive. This Washington Post story comes to mind - the self-help guru profiled certainly thought, and made other people think, that he could change lives. (My opinion is that the program he advocated was fairy dust - but I appreciate that others will disagree and respect that.)

My friend Jen is dealing with similar questions. In her case, living in Thailand near the Burmese border, she's wondering how far victims should go to protect themselves and what people on the outside should do about it.

I have no conclusions here, just musings. In my own case, my inclination is to say I should stick to my strengths - which don't include mountain moving, but might include writing moving stories and telling the truth at my job (which is what they pay me to do). But is that just a cop out?

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Princess Nijma

Princess Nijma