How Are the Children?


This sermon was given by Rev. Patrick O’Neil, at the First Unitarian Congregational Society of Brooklyn, New York, on January 21, 2015.  Sadly it is even more relevant today than ever.  I share it in honor and memory of all those lost lives in Newtown, in Las Vegas, in Orlando, in Texas and so many other places.  Whatever the actual age of the victims, they were somebody’s children.

Among the most accomplished and fabled tribes of Africa, no tribe was considered to have warriors more fearsome or more intelligent than the mighty Masai.  It is perhaps surprising then to learn that the traditional greeting between the Masai Warriors – Kasserian Ingera – means “And how are the Children?”

It is still the traditional greeting among the Masai, acknowledging the high value that the Masai always place on their children’s well being.  Even warriors with no children of their own would always give the traditional response – “All the Children are well.” Meaning, of course, that peace and safety prevail, that priorities of protecting the young and powerless are in place, that Masai society has not forgotten its reason for being, its proper function and responsibilities.  “All the Children are well” means that life is good.  It means that the daily struggles of existence, even among a poor people, do not preclude proper caring for its young people.

I wonder how it might affect our consciousness of our own children’s welfare if in our culture we took to greeting each other with this same daily question:  “And how are the Children?” I wonder if we heard that question and passed it along to each other a dozen times a day, if it would begin to make a difference in the reality of how children are thought of or cared for in this country.

I wonder if every adult among us, parent and non-parent alike, felt an equal weight for the daily care and protection of all the children in our town, in our state, in our country, could we truly say without any hesitation, “The children are well, yes, all the children are well.”  

What would it be like if the President began every press conference or every public appearance by answering the question:  “And how are the children, Mr. President?”  If every Governor of every state had to answer the same question at every press conference:  “And how are the children, Governor?  “Are they well?”  Wouldn’t it be interesting to hear their answers? What would it be like? I wonder…

What would be your answer?


©Martha Hurwitz, 11/6/17
Inspired by Daily Prompt: panacea

Please Take My Place!



I do my civic duty by voting faithfully in all elections, even those small town ones where there is only one candidate for dogcatcher or cemetery commissioner.  I vote for that one person because, seriously, I admire anyone who is willing to stand up and make our town a better place by making sure dogs don’t mosey around and use my lawn to do their business, or more important make sure the dead stay buried.  (Anyone who lives in a small town knows that keeping control of the skeletons is a very important job.)

But, please don’t start talking to me about formal procedures.  Just hearing the phrase  “Robert’s Rules of Order,” makes me break out in hives and my heart rate accelerate to a dangerous level.  This caused a problem when I agreed to be president of my religious organization because now I have to run the board meetings.  I’m proud to say that I’ve learned to ask for a motion, a second and a vote on all the important issues, but I’m still pretty sure that Robert is turning in his grave.  (I’ll call the cemetery commissioner in the morning!)

Honest disclosure:  I do not often attend town meetings, committee hearings, local political conventions, and so on.  I admire people who do and feel appropriately guilty because I do not do so.  It’s on my list of things I should change about myself, but that list is so long that attending these meetings didn’t even make it to the top ten.

Back when my children were still in school, I did go to a very important town meeting about building a new middle school building and the taxes that would be necessary to fund it.  I probably would have weaseled out of that meeting too, but my 80+ year old mother said that by-god she was going because it involved her grandchildren’s future.  If I hadn’t driven her there, she probably would have walked the mile to the town hall and how would that have looked to all my nosy neighbors?

The best meeting that I attended, though, was way back when I first moved to town and was full of excitement about making myself an important resident, committed to the town’s well-being and willing to sacrifice my time and energy to help out.  I don’t remember the subject being discussed that night, but clearly it was of critical importance because it was well-attended and had to be held in a different building to accommodate the crowd.

The meeting was long and contentious, and people were starting to get cranky.  In the tradition of legalese and governmental obfuscation, the item being voted on was phrased in such a way that it was difficult to know which  way to vote.  Finally, one very exasperated old-timer stood up and yelled out:

“You mean if I’m for it, I vote agin it; and if I’m agin it, I vote for it?”

That about sums it up for me.


©Martha Hurwitz, 11/4/17
Inspired by Daily Prompt: proxy