Gentle Nudges—The Sheepherder



My grandfather owned a farm in Afton, Wyoming where he kept sheep, dairy cows, a pig or two, horses to help him work the farm, a dog, and some chickens. Every spring he and his brother traveled to California to shear sheep and they worked their way home shearing for other ranchers, getting home in time to take care of their own sheep.

My grandfather was not a shepherd whose sheep followed him but he was the kind Nelson Mandela described in his autobiography. In Mandela’s world “a shepherd … stays behind the flock, letting the most nimble go out ahead, whereupon the others follow, not realizing that all along they are being directed from behind.” This is how grandpa spent the summer with his sheep, up the canyon, loving and protecting them from behind.

Grandpa quietly guided his sheep through gentle nudges. He knew that by giving the sheep some freedom the natural leaders would go to the front and lead the others to better grass. If any were to stray, Grandpa would send his dog to gently nudge them back into to fold.

As I thought about Grandpa as a shepherd I realized that he used the same approach to raise his children. Letting them learn life’s lessons but always there to direct them with gentle nudges from behind.

The lesson I learned from my father’s story of Grandpa is that we can teach our children to be obedient and follow our example but sometimes, like the shepherd who loves his flock, we can lead from behind, with a gentle nudge.

Calvert F. Cazier, PhD., MPH

Chair, Utah Chapter of TSA


Mandela, N. (1994). Long Walk To Freedom: the Autobiography of Nelson Mandela. p. 22

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