Tuesday, August 4, 2009

14 Cows for America

I get a weekly e-newsletter called "Exchange Everyday" with info to assist early childhood educators. This story is one that must be passed on. Our children need to hear about the love and kindness and compassion offered by others so they will learn to do the same and stand with people who need support - physical, emotional, and spiritual!

Some children's books are funny, some are clever, many are not so clever. Every once in a while, one touches the hearts of both adults and children. 14 Cows for America by Carman Agra Deedy is such a book. It is a beautifully told and illustrated story of Wilson Kimeli Naiyomah from Kenya. Here is part of his remarkable story in his own words at the end of the book:

"I am Kimeli in this story. I grew up in a small village in Kenya.... When I was older I won a scholarship to study in the United States. Many American moms and dads welcomed me to their homes, as would their own child. Like the Maasai elders in my villag e, these people showed me kindness by taking me in and helping me get an education. America became my second home.

"I was in New York City on September 11, 2001. What happened that day was devastating. Many people were left without their mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters. Like countless others, I watched brave firefighters and police officers risk their own lives to save people. My warrior heart could not sit still in me. I wanted to do something to help.

"My childhood heart told me what to do: Offer a sacrifice in the way of my people. To heal a sorrowing heart, give something that is dear to your own. I had saved enough to fulfill my dream and buy a cow. I decided that the cow, a symbol of life to our people, would be my offering to the grieving Americans....

"I returned to Kenya the following spring and told the story of that tragic day in New York City. Hearing my story, seeing my tears, the ancient spirit of my people was stirred up. When I presented my gift for blessing, the others offered up their own precious cows. Fourteen cows were blessed that day. It was a great moment in my village. We were helping to heal people far away.

"When the American ambassador and his wife came to our village to accept the cows, 'The Star Spangled Banner' played over a loudspeaker during the ceremony. Although my people did not understand the song, they stood along with the Americans and placed their hands across their chests. Seeing hundreds of Maasai standing with him in respectful silence made the American diplomat cry. His tears caught the Maasai by surprise, and we were all swept up in the deep emotion of the moment. A connection between the two cultures had been made. We felt we had taken some of America's pain into our Maasai hearts.

"These sacred, healing cows can never be slaughtered. They remain in our care in Kenya under the guidance of the revered elder Mzee Ole-Yiampoi. The original fourteen have calved and the herd now numbers over thirty-five. They continue to be a symbol of hope from the Maasai to their brothers and sisters in America. The Maasai wish that every time Americans hear this simple story of fourteen cows, they will find a measure of comfort and peace."

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