I just read about the 91,000 classified military documents spilled by WikiLeaks. Interesting. Clift Notes version: The American military spent countless billions of dollars to do all kinds of stuff—much of it quite good—in an effort to win over the Afghan people, but in the end, there’s little positive to show for it.
When I was in North Africa researching my book Harvest of Hope, I visited an ancient Berber village to see their new modern well. A representative of the European organization that headed up the project spoke of the many, many months it took to get the villagers onboard. Workers visited each family—sitting with them, meeting everyone from the grandpa to the baby, talking about the crops and hopes for the children’s future. The workers brought toothbrushes and toothpaste and taught the children to brush their teeth, Something they could do with abandon once they had plenty of water.
After I admired the new well, and each feature was demonstrated to me by the swarm of children who followed us everywhere, the village headman invited us to his house for hot mint tea.
Upstairs, in a room protected from the burning sun by walls of painted tile and filled with inviting overstuffed cushions, the headman pointed out the window to a cloudless azure sky. The rolling green hills below were dotted with acres and acres of trees in bloom. I asked what they were.
“Almonds,” the headman told me. “Eight thousand almond trees, a gift from an international government organization.”
“Wow,” I said. “Now, that was a valuable gift!”
The trees were wonderful, the headman agreed. The village earned much from selling almonds. But, he said, the government workers simply arrived, planted the trees, then left within days. Packed up and moved on to the next project. Not like the well-workers.
“The government people never came to my house for tea,” he said. “They did much very fast, but they never asked about our neighbors or our animals. They never knew my children’s names. They didn’t even know my name. We like the almond trees but we love the well. The people who gave it to our village know us.”
My point here, in this time of two wars: Is is possible for us to develop bonds of relationship? If not, can we ever hope to change hearts?
Are we not like two volumes of one book?