Greg Mortenson's book Three Cups of Tea: One man's mission to promote peace one school at a time tells the story of Mortenson's work in Pakistan and Afghanistan building schools, especially for girls who historically had not been allowed to be educated.
Sharing three cups of tea is an Islamic ritual of friendship.
"The first time you share tea with a Balti, you are a stranger. The second time you take tea, you are an honored guest. The third time you share a cup of tea, you become family.." Thus Mortenson gained the trust of the villagers as he went around setting up schools and raising money for them.
I was reminded of this tradition when I met with three of my college friends in Washington recently. We all brought gifts to each other like olive wood hearts from the Holy Land and antique handkerchiefs. But one of us traveled from Birmingham, Alabama with four tea cups in her carry on luggage...quite a feat!
It occurred to me that though we had been like family for 46 years, four cups of tea might symbolize family and friendship for life. We drank tea, laughed and cried, danced and sang, realizing hour by hour that years and miles and ages and stages had not separated us; we were bonded for life.
My tea cup sits on the counter in my bathroom, and my picture of our hands and hearts is beside it. I love these women for so many reasons, in so many ways, and I am thankful for each of them.
That is what happens with four cups of tea!