How Are the Children?
Excerpt and modified from a speech by the Rev. Dr. Patrick T. O'Neill, First Parish Unitarian Universalist Church in Framingham, MA
Among the most accomplished and fabled tribes of Africa, no tribe was considered to have warriors more fearsome or more intelligent than the mighty Masai. It is perhaps surprising then to learn the traditional greeting that passed between Masai warriors. “Kasserian Ingera,” one would always say to another. It means, “And how are the children?”
It is still the traditional greeting among the Masai, acknowledging the high value that the Masai always place on their children's wellbeing. Even warriors with no children of their own would always give the traditional answer, “All the children are well.” Meaning, of course, that peace and safety prevail, that the priorities of protecting the young, the powerless are in place, that Masai society has not forgotten its reason for being, its proper functions and responsibilities. “All the children are well,” means that life is good. It means that the daily struggles of existence, even among a poor people, do not preclude proper caring for its young.
I wonder how it might affect our consciousness of our own children's welfare if in our culture we took to greeting each other with this same daily question: “and how are the children?” I wonder if we heard that question and passed it along to each other a dozen times a day, if it would begin to make a difference in the reality of how children are thought of or cared for in this country.
I wonder if every adult among us, parent and nonparent alike, felt an equal weight for the daily care and protection of all the children in our town, in our state, in our country… I wonder if we could truly say without any hesitation, “the children are well, yes, all the children are well.”What would it be like…if the Superintendent began every Board of Education meeting, every public appearance, by answering the question, “And how are the children, Superintendent?” If every elected official in every state had to answer the same question at every press conference: “And how are the children, President/Governor/Mayor/School Board Member? Are they all well?” Wouldn't it be interesting to hear their answers?
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