Greg Mortenson in Carson City

“To love is to stop comparing.” Someone once wrote.

This particular afternoon, I couldn’t help myself.

“I have nothing in common with Greg Mortenson,” I thought myself after hanging up the phone.

I’d just received a call from the Carson City Library inviting me to present my show “Soulcycler” as an opener for the best-selling author’s upcoming appearance in Carson City.

Humbled by the invitation, I set down the phone and my mind began to whirl.

“Why me?” I thought. “I’m nothing. A nobody. Yes, I had ridden a bicycle around the globe, and lent a hand along the way, but that was the extent of it. I was certainly no Greg Mortenson.”

Several weeks past, and I found myself doing research.

When I pulled up Mortenson’s website, (www.gregmortenson.com), I became even more aware of the whose shadow I stood beneath.

Mortenson’s resume’ read like that of a Nobel recipient. (He’s been nominated twice.)

In the  last two decades he’d established 131 schools in rural Pakistan and Afghanistan. He’d built them by co-founding the non-profit Central Asian Institute, whose schools have provided education to over 58,000 children, including 48,000 Muslim girls.

Then there are Mortenson’s books.

His first, “Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace…One School at a Time,” has sold 3.6 million copies in 41 countries around the world. His second, “Stones into Schools: Promoting Peace through Books, Not Bombs, in Afghanistan and Pakistan,” debuted as #2 on the New York Times list.

I turned my attention from the computer and then thumbed through a pile of journals from my 3 year journey around the globe–my would-be manuscript. It seemed a rag tag collection of grammatical errors from around the globe.

I set the manuscript down.

“I have nothing in common with Greg Mortenson.”

Having lost a copy of “Three Cups of Tea” a year earlier, I sat down one afternoon with an audio version of the book.

That’s when I came upon,

“Mortenson had returned from Pakistan, and was living penniless was living out the burgundy gas guzzling Buick, he lovingly called, ‘La Bamba.’ ”

The passage read, “Mortenson felt the dislocation that only 48-hours of air travel can inflict. On the flight out of Islamabad, he had felt so full of purpose…but back in Berkeley, California, Mortenson couldn’t orient himself. He felt blotted out under the relentlessly sunny skies, among prosperous college students strolling happily toward their next espresso.”

I had never read something so similar to my own story of returning back home.

I had struggled immensely.

I’d written, “For three years I’d lived a life constant motion, actualizing my truest potential, challenging myself both mentally and physically across some of the world’s most remote landscapes. Self-propelled through 33 countries, I witnessed life and death struggles played-out on the streets of Tibet, Nepal, India and Bangladesh. I began to volunteer, and my soul was changed in a million ways.

But on the very night of my return, I drove down my street only to find most of my neighbors in exactly the same place where I’d left them four years previous; bathed in that same multi-colored glow of lights, staring blankly at the same small box in the corner. This as that same soul-crushing box stole precious moments of their lives, minute after minute, hour after hour, night after night…until those moments would add into a lifetime.”

As I dug deeper into his story, I began to find more similarities to our stories.

In 1992 Mortenson’s sister, Christa, died from a massive seizure after a life-long struggle with epilepsy. He’d dedicated his original journey to her.

In 1982, my mother had also succumb to a life long kidney disease; this was partly the impetus for my journey.

Several days later, I stood in a cavernous theater in Carson City, its 300 seats filled, and people standing in the aisle.

After delivering my show I realized I had delivered my message flawlessly.

The message of compassion, hope, and service to others.

And as those three hundred plus applauded, I recognized I was wrong.

I did have one thing in common with Greg Mortenson.

That something was a promise.

A simple promise I’d made to others. A mutual promise to do whatever I could to try and alleviate the suffering I’d witnessed in a world outside my own.

When the theater cleared, I was left with a handful of friends in an empty room.

I recognized that Mortenson had taught me something.

Though I may never accomplish what he has in short lifespan, he’d taught me that one person could make a difference.

And for that I am forever grateful.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a lot of work to do…

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4 comments to Greg Mortenson in Carson City

  • Iman Behzadi

    As of yesterday I started out on a road-trip headed to North Carolina to paint and draw for three months. I don’t know what I will find. It’s very exciting to be getting out there. I couldn’t stay home anymore watching my life slip by.
    I’ve know your cousin Mark Loebs a long time and he said I should check out your website. I’m really glad he did….Iman

  • soulcycler

    Hey Iman!
    Thanks for the note. I am glad someone is getting out there. I’ve been sitting writing a book. Need to take your lead and get out there!
    Good luck! R

  • We all play these games with ourselves. I know I do. I think you doing a show with Greg Mortenson was a perfect fit! Thanks for sharing.

  • Great reflection, looking forward to that book of yours!
    Did you talk with Greg? Would be interesting to hear about that.

    Cheers, Harry

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