Sunday, August 10, 2008

Making the Best Bet

The fam and I are finally home after 10 glorious days away. Our first stop was the in-laws' which, despite being stuck in a very small one-bank and grocery store kind of town in the middle of the midwest, is a perfect place for a family vacation. The house is right on the shores of Lake Michigan and, between the time we spend at the beach and visiting with relatives in the area, the girls busy themselves exploring my mother-in-law's garden, chasing butterflies and admiring the various wildlife that inhabits the property-- hummingbirds, frogs and deer.

Watching the girls cavort through their grandparent's yard, I turned to Hubby and said, "If this isn't an idyllic childhood, I don't know what is." We -- and they -- certainly are lucky.

So Hubby and I didn't feel too guilty leaving the girls with the in-laws to grab a two-day getaway by ourselves. We flew to Las Vegas for some grown up entertainment. Before we left, I picked up a book called Three Cups of Tea to read during our vacation. It was an recommendation and a New York Times bestseller and I chose it because like many Americans, I've become a bit fascinated by the Middle East. Of course the culture of that region is so different from ours and is itself interesting, but I suppose since 9/11 I continue to try to understand how we as a country could have managed to piss off an entire culture of people and wonder how in the world we might begin to turn that around.

Three Cups of Tea is the true story of mountaineer Greg Mortenson, who after finding himself lost in the Northern Pakistan mountains, recovers in a tiny village thanks to the care of its residents. Mortenson is so touched by the villagers' generosity in the face of extreme poverty that he vows to return to build them a school. Mortenson ultimately makes good on his promise and in the process finds a life mission by establishing the Central Asia Institute to combat poverty and ultimately terrorism in the Middle East with education, understanding and most of all true respect and friendship. Mortenson's organization has built more than 60 schools as well as a number of women's vocation centers and health clinics in Pakiston and Afghanistan. Although sadly outnumbered, Mortenson's schools are going head to head with the madrassas that breed hate and terrorism in that region.

I found it so ironic that I was heading straight toward Sin City while reading this story. Here I was reading about this man who took a salary of less than $30k a year and practically begged, borrowed and stole to scrape enough pennies together to keep his mission alive while barreling toward a place where people purposely engage in an activity that is the practical equivalent of throwing money in the garbage. Of course I didn't say a word to Hubby who would have lectured me on how hard we work and how we "deserve" a little fun every now and then. I still couldn't help feeling a tad guilty.

We did have a fabulous time exploring all of the hotels, indulging in the incredible breakfast buffet in our hotel and enjoying the shows. We did a little bit of gambling, but amazingly, we ended up coming out ahead, netting about $30 in all. I took it as a sign. This morning I logged on to the Central Asia Institutes' Web site and donated the money that we had planned to potentially lose in Las Vegas -- $200 -- to Greg Mortenson's mission. I think putting money on peace in the Middle East is a much better bet than laying it on the craps table at the Mirage hotel. Don't you?


anniegirl1138 said...

That was a really wonderful thing to do and money that is better than odds to do good.

PunditMom said...

Glad you had a good time. I liked the beginning of that book, but I thought it was a little too long!