I found a treasure amidst the piles of children’s books sitting on the shelves of the library where the tellers know me as the ‘bag lady’. I come with my kids, sometimes several times a week, and fill up at least one bag of books for the ninos. The other day I found a hidden jewel among books with titles like Biscuit Walks To School or The Very Long Legs Of Daddy Longfellow. On the cover of the rectangular book there was drawing of children wearing burkas and it distinctly caught my attention. I’m always interested in cross cultural books for the kids unless, of course, they are just stupid and weird. Let’s face it, there are some children’s books that are poorly written and the story doesn’t go anywhere. I have found myself closing a book mid read and apologizing to the kids because I just couldn’t finish it. It is rare but it does happen. Why continue into the iron maiden of the imagination if you can close the torture devise and read something else? That’s why I say, anyway.
The green and yellow burkas on the children stuck my attention and the title was intriguing; Listen To The Wind. I looked further and found that it’s the story of Three Cups Of Tea, written by Greg Mortenson as he traveled to Pakistan and began to open schools for children in very poor and illiterate mountain regions. I’ve read some of the book but each time I checked it out from the library life got the best of me in terms of busyness and chaos and I had to take it back or risk outrageous fines due to the high demand this book holds on the wait list.
I am very familiar with the story. This is the type of work I LOVE to hear about. My heart sits in my throat as I imagine the practical gospel being planted in the hearts of young children who are given dignity and honour as they learn to read and write. Education is empowering and motivating and I’m a bit partial to young girls being given an education in Muslim countries. It brings communities a sense of worth and value knowing that they too can read the stories of their own history, read poetry that saciatiates the hunger for words and descriptions, add, count and barter in the town square; to understand the pull of the moon and how it affects harvest time. I believe Jesus cries tears of delight when communities are upheld in their manifest dignity.
I read the simple, sweet words of a children’s story that is based on these events and my throat closed up while I read to Oliver and Chloe. It was shakey and uneven as my eyes filled with water. I read in sensative amazement as I thought of men and women crossing a bridge that they had to make just to bring supplies across a deadly chasm in order for a learning house to exist. The way the entire community came together to give, build, sweat and, likely at times, doubt in order for this school to come into being was very moving in my opinion. I guess I love when the unnoticed are noticed by someone and that someone pours muscles, sweat, money, sleep and personal demons of fear and insecurity into a project that awakens the human spirit.
My children still have no idea I was crying as I read to them. They don’t understand the depth of sacrifice and the beauty of the cost of a story like this. Someday they will. Someday their hearts will see the injustices and imbalances in the world and they too will ache and hurt as they observe. I hope they are ones who will sweat alongside the dirty and illiterate to learn from them and love like them. Even if they never write the book or they disappear into obscurity; if their love reaches the depths of their own children or the neighbors children and not the vast and rocky mountains in Pakistan. I love for them to hear these stories and ask the questions that follow. We talk about what love and dignity is as we read colorful and creative books from the library. Someday they will understand even more.