Friday, August 21, 2009

Three Cups of Tea

Late winter my patient C received a copy of "Three Cups of Tea" from a friend. C has brain cancer and was nonverbal at this point but still facially expressive. Her husband was reading her one book, a friend was reading another one, so I offered to read "Three Cups of Tea" to her, not knowing what it was about but recognizing the cover as a New York Times bestseller. Over the last several months I have read a chapter or two at a time to C, absolutely falling in love with the story of Greg Mortenson's life. Many events led to Mortenson discovering his unique calling, including a failed climb of K2. Since 1995, Mortenson has established over 90 schools in rural and often volatile regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan, where few education opportunities existed before. C and I are now about halfway through the book. A few weeks ago my coworker Kathleen asked me if I'd read the book and then let me know that Mortenson would be speaking at Loyola tonight. Were we ever excited! Somehow between all of his work building schools, Mortenson also feels it is important to lecture and raise awareness. The talk at Loyola was very inspiring. He gave an overview of his work in Afghanistan and Pakistan, as well as his personal background. What was most interesting to me was how his book has been used to educate our armed forces and congress members. While Mortenson stated that he tries to stay out of politics, he also made it clear that he believes we must focus our energy on education and that erasing illiteracy is the only way this war will end. I would highly recommend reading the book and hearing him speak if you get a chance.

The true highlight was yet to come for me. After he was done speaking, there was a book signing. I feel like book signings can be awkward- you want to let the author know you appreciate them but you also don't want to hold up the line. Mortenson was very personable, shaking everyone's hands before signing their book. After he had shaken my hand, I let him know that I was reading the book to a patient and explained I was a hospice social worker. He stopped signing the book, looked at me, took my hand again and then thanked me for working in hospice. He was so sincere! He briefly mentioned his background as a trauma RN and also working in the burn unit, noting he had immense respect for people who work in hospice. He finished signing my book and then said he appreciated my work. A Nobel Peace prize nominee thanked me for my profession. An incredible, humbling moment. I cannot wait to tell C all about it!


Christian Sinclair, MD said...

Great story Leigh. I find book signings a bit awkward too. It was nice that he paused and complimented your work.

risaden said...

I love listening to a "read aloud" story, and can only imagine how much your patient appreciates you doing this with her. Quite a gift!