Quintin Shepherd

Quintin Shepherd

I read a wonderful story over the holiday break about the fabled Masai tribe in Africa.

It is understood no tribe had warriors more intelligent or more fearsome than the mighty Masai. I was hooked at the words fearsome and intelligent. It is connected with me instantly and reminded me of the following quote, “The society that separates its scholars from its warriors will have its thinking done by cowards and its fighting by fools.” – Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War (ca 410 BCE). My wonder question going into the reading was what can I learn from this group?

The first thing I learned was the traditional Masai greeting between warriors, “Kasserian Ingera.” Translated, it means, “And how are the children?” To this day, this is the greeting still used by the mighty Masai. Imagine a culture that is built around the well-being of children.

I used the culture word, so I ask you to stop and ponder this. The culture we live in tends to be like describing water to fish, we often don’t see our own culture. Is our culture built around starting a conversation focused on well-being of children?

I will leave that for you to answer for yourself.

It is said that even warriors who had no children of their own would give the answer, “all the children are well.”

Here too, recognize what that statement means, that we prioritize safety, well-being, and peace for our children. All of these must be community priorities to protect the young people.

For the Masai, “all of the children are well” does not ignore the reality there are struggles and difficulties but remembers there must be a community commitment to holding our children safe.

If the response is not “all the children are well” a conversation is had in that instant. Absolutely nothing takes precedence. The two engage in dialogue about what is wrong, why, and what can be done.

The message I take away from this is the well-being of children is, in fact, priority number one.

It made me wonder (I have a lot of wonder questions), what would happen if I committed to asking this question on a regular basis as part of my greeting? I wonder how awkward it would be if everyone who is considered a town or state leader began every meeting with, “And how are the children? Are they all well?”

Please do not misunderstand my writing here to indicate I want Victoria to become more like the Masai tribe, that is not my point at all. My point in sharing this story is to simply share a story of cultural priorities and ask you to think about it... How are the children? Are they all well?

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

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