The middle school had a visit from me last Thursday, September 9. I had found a picture-book about 9/11/2001 which I had to share with someone. My usual crowd of pre-schoolers was out of the question. I invited myself to an eighth grade English class, and was rewarded with a group of attentive, respectful students. What a great experience!
What was the book? 14 Cows for America, by Carmen Agra Deedy. On September 11, 2001, Wilson Kimeli Naiyomah was far from his home in Kenya. He was in New York City. The events of that day impacted him in an enormous way. When he returned to Kenya in the spring, he shared his story with the people of his remote Maasai village, who had not yet heard about the terrorist attacks.
In order to truly appreciate the message of the book, you must understand that, in the words of Kimeli, "To the Maasai, the cow is life."
Kimeli owned one cow. Just one, in a culture where the wealth of a person is determined by how many cows he owns.
With the blessing of the elders of his tribe, Kimeli set aside his only cow as a living offering to comfort the pain of a nation. That cow was joined by thirteen more from other members of Kimeli's village who also felt the need to do something for the American people. They invited the United States Ambassador to Kenya to come to a special dedication ceremony, because, as Carmen Agra Deedy writes, "There is no nation so powerful it cannot be wounded, nor a people so small they cannot offer mighty comfort."
Those fourteen cows are considered sacred and, as such, will never be used for food or any other purpose. They remain under the care of the tribe who have tended them so well and the herd now numbers over 30.