United Church of Christ

Traci Blackmon: How are the children?

TraciReflectCville.jpgAmong the many fabled and accomplished tribes of East Africa, there is no tribe considered to have warriors more fearsome or more intelligent than the mighty Maasai. The tribe is unique and popular due to their long preserved culture.

Despite education, civilization and western cultural influences, the Maasai people have clung to their traditional way of life—making them a symbol of Kenyan culture.

So it is not surprising, then, to learn that the traditional greeting passed among the Maasai warriors; "Kasserian Engeri," translated "And how are the children?" is still the traditional greeting used today. This greeting acknowledges the high value that the Maasai place on children's well-being.

Even warriors with no children of their own give the traditional answer, "All the children are well," meaning that peace and safety prevail; the priorities of protecting the young and the powerless are in place; that the Maasai people have not forgotten their reason for being. Their proper function and their responsibilities.

"All the children are well" means life is good.

It means the daily struggles of existence—even among the poor and the marginalized—are seen. That the village is committed to providing proper care for those incapable of providing for themselves.

So the question I invite us into once again today, in the shadow of yet another mass shooting, this time at a high school in Broward County, Fla., is "How are the children?"

How are the children who were held hostage to terror as gunshots rang through school hallways leaving 17 people dead in their wake?

How are the children who are afraid to attend school today, traumatized by a fear of dying in a place that should be safe?

How are the 46 children who are shot daily, seven of whom will die? Who shall it be today?

How are the children who find guns they believe to be toys until their play ends in the death of family and friends? How are the children who live with such guilt?

How are the broken ones, like this 19 year-old shooter, whose life can be redeemed, but not restored, because access to assault weapons and magazines have forever closed the door to undo what has been done?

How are the children sacrificed on our capitalistic altars of self-protection? How are the children?

Do we care about our children enough to do all we can to keep them safe? How are all of our children? The ones killed in preventable violence and those left behind to mourn their passing.

Imagine what might be the effect on the consciousness of our communities, our nation, and our world if we began greeting each other with the same daily question of the Maasai; "And how are the children?"

How might this question reframe our conversation around sensible gun control?

How are the children?

How many school shootings will it take before the need to protect our children supersedes the greed of our national leadership?

This week's massacre brings the total of school shootings in the first 46 days of 2018 to 18. Is this the number?

How many more children?

How many more tears?

How many more prayers before we regulate guns and take our children out of harm's way?

How many children must die before we acknowledge our children are not well?

I wonder, if we heard this greeting of the Maasai passed along to one another a dozen times a day, would begin to make a difference in our collective consciousness and how children are thought of—and cared for—in this world?

I wonder what it would be like if every adult among us—parent and non-parent alike—felt an equal weight of responsibility for the daily care and protection of all of the children.

What would it be like if every presidential address began with this question, "Mr. President, how are the children?"

What if this were the question we asked of religious leadership, "Your Excellency, how are the children?"

What if our denominations asked this question—"How are the children?"

What if we asked our Governors, and our Mayors, and our teachers, and our law enforcement, and all of our elected officials—and what if we asked ourselves, "How are the children?"

What if we asked the NRA, "How are our children?"

Let us be courageous enough to examine our present, to see and not un-see, to hear and not un-hear, to do all we can not to hinder, by asking ourselves this question; "And how are the children?"

All of the children.

For the children are not well.

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