Even the container itself is "junk" -- used only once, then cleaned up and sold for storage. The sheer fecundity of our society is mind-boggling -- what we cast off as used or obsolete is treasured in other parts of the world … even the container will now be converted by Children's Town (with the addition of some windows) into a classroom. What Tad discovered -- serendipitously, but now his work is being studied by organizations such as GlobalGiving.com -- is a powerful nexus between the high production/fast churn consumer economies of countries like the U.S. and the desperate need of developing countries for the still-valuable items those wealthy nations throw away.
Finally, the third lesson is the decency of the American people. From captains of industry to housewives, from fellow Boy Scouts to local teachers, from tycoons to Sister Georgi and Resurrection School (which patiently let the container sit on its grounds for nearly two years), almost every person Tad spoke to about his project immediately volunteered to help. Probably not a single one those people will ever see the fruits of their efforts in use deep in the heart of Africa. But that didn't matter. More than once, Tad stopped by the container to find a box of school items, some newly bought at store, left there anonymously by someone in the community.
Tad may have been surprised, but I was more so. Having lived in Silicon Valley now for nearly a half-century, and covered it for thirty years as a journalist, I thought I knew everything about this town. But, thanks to Tad's project, I've learned something wonderful about the heart of this place.
The container will arrive, like an early Christmas present, at Children's Town in late October -- a gift to teenagers from another teenager half a world away. One can say that it never would have happened without the technology of our modern Internet-driven global economy. But just as important, it happened because an American boy, filled with the pervasive entrepreneurial spirit of our time -- and with the ambition that comes with that spirit -- didn't hesitate to attempt the impossible. Though as a proud father I'd like to think so, Tad Malone isn't unique. There are millions more young people out there just like him.
And if that doesn't give you hope, nothing will.
This is the opinion of the columnist and in no way reflects the opinion of ABC News.
Michael S. Malone is one of the nation's best-known technology writers. He has covered Silicon Valley and high-tech for more than 25 years, beginning with the San Jose Mercury News as the nation's first daily high-tech reporter. His articles and editorials have appeared in such publications as The Wall Street Journal, the Economist and Fortune, and for two years he was a columnist for The New York Times. He was editor of Forbes ASAP, the world's largest-circulation business-tech magazine, at the height of the dot-com boom. Malone is the author or co-author of a dozen books, notably the best-selling "Virtual Corporation." Malone has also hosted three public television interview series, and most recently co-produced the celebrated PBS miniseries on social entrepreneurs, "The New Heroes." He has been the ABCNews.com "Silicon Insider" columnist since 2000.