Dr. Quintin Shepherd

Dr. Quintin Shepherd

Adapted from an Indian folk tale.

Once there was a wise woman who lived near a small village. Rumor was she could always accurately predict when rains would come, help heal a sick child or help angry neighbors resolve their fights and disagreements. People came from all over to meet with her and seek advice on all matters. She had a reputation for never being wrong.

Some of the children of the village didn’t believe it possible to always be right. Certainly, she could not know everything! They decided to test her knowledge. First, they asked her to answer questions about the planets, the animals and the world. No matter how hard the questions, she always answered correctly.

The children were amazed at her knowledge and learning, and most were ready to stop testing the wise woman. However, one boy was determined to prove the old woman could not know everything. In a devious scheme, he told his friends to meet him at the woman’s home the following afternoon so he could prove her wrong just once.

The next day he hunted for a bird, finally catching one in a net. Holding it behind his back so nobody could see what was in his hands, he walked to the wise woman’s home. 

“Old woman!” he called. “Come and show us how wise you are!”

The woman walked calmly to the door. “May I help you?” she simply asked.

“You say you know everything. Behind my back I hold a bird. But tell me, is the bird I am holding alive or dead?”

If the woman replied, “alive,” he would crush it with his hands and prove her wrong. If she answered, “dead,” on the other hand, he would pull the living bird from behind his back and allow it to fly away. Either way, he would prove his point and the wise woman would be discredited.

The wise woman paused for a long moment while the boy waited with anticipation for his opportunity to prove her wrong. The woman spoke calmly, “The answer, my young friend, is in your hands. The answer is always in your hands.”

The boy realized the wise woman had spoken the truth. The answer was in his own hands. Feeling the bird feebly moving in his hands as it tried to escape his grasp, he was suddenly very ashamed. The answer was in his hands.

It is often this way in life, I think. The answer is in our hands every day with the decisions we make and the things we “think, say and do” as my fellow Rotarians will recognize. I think this is a choice we all have when we talk about the future of our schools and the future of Victoria ISD. The answer is truly in our hands.

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

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