Thomas Doty – Storyteller

A Native View

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A Path Worth Walking

It's four o'clock in the morning, and I've been wide awake for two hours, contemplating my place in what appears to be a world gone violently crazy. Here are my middle-of-the-night thoughts.

So far this year, there have been 355 mass shootings in the United States. A mass shooting is defined as four or more persons killed or injured. That's more than one a day! This year, mass shootings have happened in 47 states. And while this is shocking and heartbreaking, mass shootings account for less than five percent of all shooting deaths.

This has been going on for years. At times, it has felt personal. In 1998, I performed and taught storytelling at Thurston High School in Springfield, Oregon just days before a shooting. One of my students was a victim! And this year, there was another shooting in Oregon at Umpqua Community College where I've done programs several times over the years.

Each shooting tears my heart ... in Paris, in Pennsylvania, and close to home. Back in the '60s and '70s, I prayed and demonstrated for world peace. These days, I include an extra prayer for domestic peace. We live in a war zone!!

More guns won't help, fewer guns might. But nothing will change until each of us wakes each morning with feelings of love and kindness toward everyone we share the planet with.

In 1857, John Beeson, Oregon's first human rights leader, wrote: "Love is the universal cure for the social wrongs that curse the world." These words might have been spoken by Gandhi or King, or so many others. This is a powerfully simple message, and at the heart of all of the best changes humans have ever made. And it works everywhere. Brothers Black Elk and Lame Deer were right: we are all related!

As a storyteller, I try to share stories that honor all of my relations. And between the stories, I try to walk my talk. At those times -- and they are frequent -- when I feel just plain pissed off at "how things are in the world," I pause in my passionate anger, sit quietly, and my heart calms and comes back to kindness and love. And then I share a story with someone.

I have heard criticisms that my approach is naive, too simple, unrealistic in a world gone crazy! To this I respond: at those times when the days and nights seemed darkest, folks like Beeson, Gandhi and King offered solutions. And always, their messages embraced love and kindness.

Though there are losses along the way, and we are heartbroken and deeply feel those losses, there is a path that quietly leads away from the madness. All of my relations, let's share our stories as we walk it together.

– December 4, 2015