A proper greeting

Published 5:00 pm Saturday, April 30, 2011

QUESTION: What do the greetings people use indicate about the spirit of the community?

ANSWER: That’s an interesting question to ponder. I think we usually take our greetings for granted; they may be more cultural custom than anything else. However, because they are so often repeated, they do re-enforce a community priority.

We Americans, for instance, repeatedly ask, “How are you?” and answer, “I’m fine.” It’s a greeting that, in a caring way, re-enforces our individuality and independence. Shalom, the ancient greeting of the Jewish faith community, means, “Peace be with you,” or “May there be no barrier between you and God and no barrier between you and your brother.”

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Among the most accomplished and legendary tribes of Africa, no tribe was considered to have warriors more fearsome or intelligent than the mighty Masai. It is perhaps surprising then to learn the traditional greeting passed between Masai warriors. “Kasserian ingera” one would say to another. It 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 will always give the traditional answer, “All the children are well.” The meaning of course, is that peace and safety prevail, that the priorities of protecting the young, the powerless, are in place, that Masai society has not forgotten its reason for being, and its proper functions and responsibilities.

Consider how it might affect our consciousness of our own children’s welfare if we took to greeting each other with this same daily question. “And how are the children?” What if we heard that question and passed it along to each other a dozen times a day?

It’s not likely that anyone of us will actually change our customary daily greeting on the street, or at the store or in the office. Still, we might begin to ask each other “And how are the children?” within our family circles, our business lunches and our social gatherings. We might find that it would positively change some of our speech, our behaviors and our decisions.

If you would like to talk with a parenting specialist about the challenges in raising children, call the toll-free Parent WarmLine at 1-888-584-2204/Línea de Apoyo at 877-434-9528. For free emergency child care call Crisis Nursery at 1-877-434-9599.