Qing the Shepherd


The summer sun beat down on the fields. The droning of locusts rose and fell like waves upon the beach. In the heat, a young shepherd struggled after a young lamb which seemed to evade his every beck and call. When the shepherd got close, the lamb would dart way. When he called to it, it would ignore his voice.

The young man wondered if he was doing something wrong. Indeed, he found it difficult to manage the large flock with which he had been entrusted by the monks. He was young and inexperienced. Perhaps, he was not firm enough in his commands. He observed another shepherd who seemed to have mastered control of her flock. She seemed to expertly drive the flock where they needed to go. This woman would use stern tones and a whip that cracked. She could corral her flock. He admired the control she had over their movements and the efficiency which which they complied. He worried that if he did not improve, his flock would be ravaged by peril. Panthers would target stragglers and wayward sheep would fall into ravines. He decided to seek council from the wise monks.

The next morning, the young shepherd led his flock into the courtyard of the monastery. Once they were secured inside a pen, he sought out someone who would speak with him about the matter. His eye fell upon a lithe monk balancing one-legged on a sphere of bronze. The shepherd approached the monk and quietly waited. After several minutes, a large man in orange robes slapped the shepherd on the back and said, “Whadya waiting for young one! Ol’ Min here will perch there all day unless you say something.” Although the slap was good-natured, the force of that massive paw nearly knocked the young man off his balance. “I…I didn’t want to interrupt him.” The mighty monk bellowed in laughter as he walked off. The shepherd turned back around to find Min standing in front of him. “What brings you,” he turned to view the flock, “and your sheep to me?”

The shepherd summoned his courage and spoke, “This flock was given to me to care for, however I am inexperienced. I call to them and they go their own way. I try to lead them to safe pastures, but several of them go their own way.” He paused. A wave of shame poured over him. “You must find another shepherd to tend these sheep. I cannot lead them.” Min gazed long at the young man. Finally, he spoke. “What is your name?” This question seemed like an accusation. Was he to be found out and reprimanded? In a humble voice he replied, “Qing.” Min took stock of the young man for a moment. “Well, Qing, do you know your sheep by name?” Qing had never thought about naming his sheep. Such a notion seemed strange. “No, I haven’t named them.” Sternly, Min replied, “Then how do you expect them to follow you? Name each of them. Call to each as you lead them. Do this for 30 days then return to me.” As quickly as Qing could blink, Min had leapt back upon the ball, balanced on one leg, and again closed his eyes in concentration. There seemed nothing else to do but return to his sheep and lead them again into the pasture.

In the days that followed, Qing did name each of his flock. He spend time noticing how each differed. At first he felt ridiculous. How could this possibly help matters. These creatures led simple existences which consisted of waking, eating, and at times quarreling with each other. Some seemed to comply while some continued to rebel. Strangely, he found himself caring more and more about them. When one would wander off, he would leave the flock and search after the one that was lost. At night, he would lay at the entrance of their pen so that if any predator would attack them, they would have to pass over his body. Though more and more the flock seemed to follow him, a feeling of uncertainty haunted him. Was he really in control? Would they heed his voice in moments of danger? During these times of doubt, he again noticed the shepherdess and her flock. He admired how she expertly drove her sheep and how they complied with her every command. She had compelled her flock through the pasture and into the monastery. He heard her sharp calls and fearful whip cracks and watched as the sheep obeyed without deviation. Surely, she was a master.

After the 30 days, Qing led his sheep back into the monastery’s walls. He entered the gates, calling to his sheep to urge them in. Some would dart to one side but he would call them by name. They responded to him and rejoined the group. He took a moment to acknowledge that he had improved, yet the thought of that shepherdess seemed a silent judge that he had not yet mastered his craft. Nevertheless, he felt hopeful that Min would acknowledge his progress and sought out the eccentric monk. After much searching, he found Min taking lunch under the shade of a spruce tree. Min saw him coming, set down his chopsticks and attended to him. “Well, I see you have returned!” cried Min. “Yes, I have done all that you asked.” Min again narrowed his eyes and assessed the young man. He appeared eager yet Min sensed an apprehensiveness in his posture. “Have you named each of your flock?” Quickly, Qing replied, “Yes, every one of them. They even respond when I call them!” Min smiled, “Very good. Then you have learned the lesson.” He turned to go, but Qing put out his hand, “Wait, I don’t understand. Is that all I need to know?” Min stopped, somewhat confused. “What is it you believe you need?” Qing considered his request then continued, “The young shepherdess…” he started, “…she commands her sheep. With an iron staff she directs them. They follow her without question. Her every word is followed without deviation and none of her flock seems to ever go astray.” He paused and waited. When Min made no reply, Qing continued, “What must I do to be a shepherd like her?”

A look of confusion passed over Min’s face. “What shepherdess are you talking about?” Qing wondered if standing on a brass ball for hours had dulled master Min’s senses. “You know, the young woman who drove her sheep from the pastureland into the monastery. The one who has complete control over her flock. She is the one who expertly commands their movements and who never loses a one of them to predators or privation.” Min cocked his head and thought for a moment. “Ah, you must mean Daiyu! She is responsible for moving the mature sheep into the monastery when it is time to harvest them. She is not a shepherd. She is a butcher!”


Jason is a developer, Scrum Master, writer, teacher, coach, husband, father, and community leader out of Tulsa Oklahoma. He's been delivering software since 2007 and absolutely loves the values and principles of agility especially as given form by the Scrum framework.