Red Mountain Resort & Spa (Utah)
Last week I had the pleasure of hearing Greg Mortensen speak in St. George, Utah. It was fundraiser for the Dove Center, the local domestic violence women's shelter. I have been a huge fan of Greg Mortensen since I read his two books, Three Cups of Tea and Stones into Schools, last fall. He is an amazing man who decided to build a school for a small village in the mountains of Pakistan after the village people cared for him after an unsuccessful attempt to climb K2. His story is a very inspiring example of how one man's vision can make a huge impact on the lives of thousands of people. For the past sixteen years, his non-profit foundations, the Central Asia Institute and Pennies for Peace, have built over 170 schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan, with at least half of the children attending being women. I left his talk wondering what nuggets of wisdom I could share about how we can all dream big and make a difference in the world. Three key points have stayed with me, and I'd like to share them with you.
First, he reminded me how important it is to get involved in a cause, group, or activity around which you have a great deal of interest and passion. Volunteer and community service work usually comes out of your "free" time, and in order to not resent giving up that time, you need to feel the reason is worthwhile and you are being nourished and fed by giving your time, talent and treasure. This means seeking out those groups and events that speak to your heart, rather than being roped into doing something that someone else wants you to do. Greg Mortensen had a love for the people and the terrain of Pakistan. Not everyone has the same passions and interests. You need to be careful to say "Yes" when the cause resonates with your heart and gut. Only then will you freely and willingly give and feel motivated to share yourself and your time.
Second, it helps to have a very big, compelling vision of what you want to accomplish. In fact, if the vision is so big you cannot possibility imagine how you can do it by yourself. That is actually a good thing. It means you will need to tap into the Universe for help and guidance, and that is when things really start to happen. When Greg Mortensen returned to America with his dream of building a school in the remote mountains of Pakistan, he soon realized he needed financial help. By reaching out to everyone he could think of, he found his angel and was able to go beyond the one school. He also learned quickly to listen to the tribal elders and not try to make all the decisions himself. This enabled him to turn the reigns over to the local people to run the school, and allowed him to move onto the next building project.
Third and finally, it seems essential to maintain a firm conviction that you can be the spark that starts the fire - that one person can make a difference. Your vision may seem vast and difficult, but you must keep the idea alive. Share with those you know what is making you excited and passionate. Surround yourself with other like minded people to keep your commitment strong. One of the first things Greg Mortensen did was to find the right people in Pakistan who share his belief that education is the key to giving hope and a better future to the people of Pakistan. And he found people in America who wanted to help - especially school children who could collect pennies and learn how their contribution would improve the lives of children half way around the world.
I am so appreciative to have been touched by Greg Mortensen's spark, and I intend to put some focus and attention on how I can make a difference. I encourage you to do the same.