“How Are the Children?”

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"Even warriors with no children of their own would always give the traditional answer, "All the children are well."

      Reverend Patrick O'Neill, "And How Are the Children", First Unitarian Congregational Society of Brooklyn, New York.

"How are the children? is certainly a question but in the case of the Masai people of Kenya and Tanzania it is also a greeting. In the Masai language the words are: "Kasserian Ingera", a very sensitive greeting from a very fierce people. 

I learned this information from a wonderful piece, "And How Are the Children?" by the Reverend Patrick O'Neill. It seems that the Masai do not say "How are you?" That would imply only an interest in that individual's well being. Neither do they say "How are your children?" because this again is about the individual and his or her family. Rather the greeting indicates a desire to know the well being of all the children in the community. It recognizes that the entire society, not just the parents or grandparents,has a stake in the well being of the children.

Isn't this a powerful question / greeting? In essence it is saying that the community's well being is only as strong as its weakest members. Its only as strong as those who will someday become adults?

There is another part to the greeting: The response. It is hoped that when greeted, the other person will respond by saying: "All the children are well." What I find particularly touching is, in Reverend O'Neill's words:

'"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."' 

Those of us who work in toys have a role, a major role, in both enriching and protecting children and in doing so ensuring that they grow up to be healthy adults. Perhaps we who make toys should take to greeting each other with the words "How are the children?" How nice to be able to respond "All the children are well."

 

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