Dr. Quintin Shepherd

Dr. Quintin Shepherd

Last week at the Juvenile Justice Center graduation ceremonies, we had a great speaker for the students. Dr. Estella De Los Santos, board trustee for VISD, spoke to our students about the importance of goals, how to develop J.O.Y. in your life and how to be a good person. She shared some wisdom with the graduating students passed on to her from her father.

After the graduation, I just couldn’t get her message out of my mind, and it has been with me for the past week. Have you ever experienced a conversation where a turn of phrase stays with you for days or weeks afterward as you turn it over in your mind and wrestle with it? That has been my experience in this past week. Please allow me to share with you what Dr. De Los Santos said and what it has meant to me.

As Dr. De Los Santos was speaking to the students about being a good person, she shared this insight learned from her father: “No seas como un azadón.” For those who don’t know Spanish, it means, “Don’t be like a garden hoe.” I’m sure as you read this you are thinking this is an odd piece of advice. The meaning associated with this phrase is important.

A garden hoe is a tool you use to bring things toward you. Using that tool puts you at the center as you draw it down and back toward you. The message for our JJC graduates was that you won’t find deeper J.O.Y. by making everything about you (that’s the Y in J.O.Y., by the way).

You cannot always be the center of attention, and you shouldn’t put yourself first.

You are still important, and you must take care of yourself, but you can’t be like a garden hoe and make everything about you.

Before taking care of yourself, Dr. De Los Santos indicated we must put others first (the O in J.O.Y.). She is absolutely correct; this is the path to true happiness and joy. Take care of others before yourself. Maybe it’s because I grew up on a working farm, but it dawned on me after a few days we might add a second part to the sentence learned from Dr. De Los Santos: “Don’t be like a garden hoe; be instead like a shovel.”

The shovel is always pushing out (thinking of others) and lifting up. This is really what we want to be doing when we serve others. Both actions are part of tending a garden, but instead of bringing down and drawing in, we are lifting up and spreading out. We could use a lot more lifting up and spreading out to others first.

In Spanish, the phrase would be something like, “No seas una azada; seAS mejor una pala.”

For those of us who know Dr. De Los Santos, we have come to realize what a great gift she is to have in our lives. She is someone who genuinely does put others first and is a deep thinker capable of pushing us all to be better. I’d like to personally thank her for delivering a great message to our JJC graduates and for pushing my thinking along the way.

A great graduation message is one that resonates with the students and audience, and I’d like to thank her for that. One last thing, for those who were reading deeply, you’ll note that I shared the “O” and the “Y” from J.O.Y.

I’ll leave it to you to figure out the “J,” or maybe just go ask Dr. De Los Santos.

Dr. Shepherd is the superintendent of the Victoria Independent School District.

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