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October 5, 2013

Pruning Branches on “Peace”

Thank you to all who are responding to the question we, along with the International Storytelling Center, are asking at their upcoming festival, October 4-6, 2013, in Jonesborough, Tennessee. Early responses are already coming in for our question:

How might the art and power of storytelling contribute to global peace and collaboration in a troubled world?


“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”
– Martin Luther King  Jr.

I didn’t post earlier in the week because I wasn’t quite ready to write about peace. After the Boston marathon bombing and the ensuing manhunt, I felt like I couldn’t “authentically” comment on peace since I was struggling to find it within myself.

I didn’t feel “at peace.”

I felt overcome — sorrowful and tormented that the tragedy resonated so deeply. Similar to my feelings after the Sandy Hook shootings last December, I felt stuck in a state of empathy that truly ached.

As a parent, I am experiencing the joy and sacredness of my children ‘daily’ as they discover who they are – fresh with the light and energy of innocence.

At the same time, I am discovering who they have the potential to be. Where can peace be found in the face of that kind of loss?

Searching for explanations only raises more questions: disconnected young men, misguided ideologies about freedom, faith, and religion. As a society, where do we go from here?

Where is peace in all of this, and what can we learn when we feel as if God is absent?

However, in the same moments I have ached over Newtown and Boston, I have also rejoiced that cancer no longer invades the bodies and lives of several dear friends, and the beauty, celebration, and complexity of life continues.

The paradox is that God is present in all of these moments, and peace and patience come to fruition with that understanding. Irish poet John O’Donohue says that somewhere within us, a ‘dignity’ presides that ‘trusts’ the form a day takes, continuously “transforming our broken fragments into an eternal continuity that keeps us.”

Trusting the ‘form’ that each day takes (the good and the bad) requires the understanding that within each moment, we can choose to move forward in patience (with love or generosity) or in haste (with indifference or hostility).

The act of patience reminds us that we are not in control, and staying ‘in the struggle’ allows us the opportunity to improve our world and ourselves, rather than accepting the easy answers of apathetic approaches or adopting attitudes of intolerance.

In the New Testament, Paul reminds us that human beings cannot help but see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections.

If we allow ourselves to trust the form each day takes, and choose to accept that grace essentially explains that life happens within the arms of God (as 16th century poet St. John wrote), then we get a glimpse of heaven on earth.

Being still and patient in those moments of struggle reveals the notion that “when we are . . . aware of the inadequacy of our table, it is to that, uninvited, the guest comes” (Thomas).

Through patience, we are acquiring peace of the spirit, so that we can trust the form each day takes.

October 5, 2013

Because a Story Was Shared in a Far Off Land

Thank you to all who are responding to the question we, along with the International Storytelling Center, are asking at their upcoming festival, October 4-6, 2013, in Jonesborough, Tennessee. Early responses are already coming in for our question:

How might the art and power of storytelling contribute to global peace and collaboration in a troubled world?


Shortly before my Pop died, I was working on a play with a Christmas theme. I’d had him over for dinner and just offhandedly asked, “Well, Pop, you got any Vietnam Christmas stories?” not expecting an answer, because he rarely talked about his three tours in Vietnam.

What happened next in the story he shared allowed me to understand the true, life-saving power of story, and how because of story, I did not become an orphan during the TET offensive, when I was born and his life was saved— all because someone knew his story.

It was November of ’67 and Pop was in Quin Hon, Vietnam. A Refrigerated ship pulled into port– the kind that holds lots of food. My dad and his buddy Bobby Noble had the task of “inspecting” the ship. They loved that job, because infractions on refrigerator ships were quickly and magically fixed with a supply of turkeys and steaks. My dad and Bobby found enough infractions to provide a feast. They didn’t bring the food back to the other guys at the base. But– it’s not as bad as you think. My dad was Catholic, and there was a Vietnamese priest there- they called him Father Paul because his real name was hard to pronounce. He spoke English, and Dad would go see him sometimes. They’d share stories about their lives, what it was like for each of them growing up. Dad showed him pictures of my mom, my sister, and talked about the upcoming birth of their new baby, which would happen pretty soon. Father Paul ran the orphanage, and my dad would often bring candy bars and other things there, and sometimes play with the kids. On this day, Pop and Bobby took the food to Father Paul at the orphanage, so the kids, who usually get nothing but rice every day, could have Christmas dinner. In fact, it was enough food for several weeks.

Dad remembers going up the hill that day, carrying the load. He would always call out to let Father Paul know not to worry, but he forgot to this day and he heard father Paul call out. “Ai do! Day la nhung gi? Who’s there? What’s this?”

Pop just shouted up to him, “Xin Chao Cha! Hi Father! It’s Magic Turkey. Give me a hand.” And Father Paul and a few of the older children began taking the boxes into the gates of the orphanage.

Father Paul of course asked, “How is your wife, and the new baby?”

“No baby yet. It’s due in a couple of weeks. Maybe it’ll be a boy this time.”

Of course, they were talking about me.

Father Paul tells him, “When you hear, you come tell me. We’ll celebrate with a steak dinner. I save this one for you.”

Pop replied, “Will do. Gotta get back to my unit. Merry Christmas.”

The orphans and Father Paul had a real feast that Christmas. A few weeks later, there was a huge Offensive by the Viet Cong. The TET Offensive. Dad’s unit was getting hit from all sides. The Viet Cong surrounded the village, even came to the orphanage gates. Father Paul held them off with nothing but a 38 caliber pistol. The Viet Cong soldiers saw him defend the children and left the orphanage alone. My dad survived the offensive. He went up the hill to check on Father Paul once fighting had let up.

Pop called up as usual, maybe not as loudly. “Xin Chao Cha?” and Father Paul appeared. “It’s good to see you safe, father. I heard you had visitors.”

Father Paul met him and said, “I held them off with pistol.”

“That rusty old thirty-eight?”

Father Paul stood firm and explained, “They will not come onto property without a fight from me. Come, I show you why.”

“I know Father, the children. I told you before, I can’t bring any of them home. I just had another baby, two weeks ago. The Red Cross couldn’t find me. Just found out today. What a world to bring a kid into, huh? So you don’t need to show me…”

Then Father Paul cut him short—“Look down hill!”

Pop said he stood speechless for a minute when he realized what he was looking at. “That’s…my unit.”

The Viet Cong thought, and dad thought, that Father Paul held off the soldiers to save the children. Father Paul knew the Viet Cong wouldn’t hurt the orphans. But he also knew that the orphanage sat on a hill with a clear view to dad’s location. The Viet Cong could have completely wiped out the platoon. My dad had been kind to the orphans. He also knew Pop had a child at home and another on the way. Father Paul wanted to return the kindness, so Pop’s children would not be orphans, too. For every small gesture of peace, a miracle happens. For every small story shared, understanding and possibility is created in this world. Because a story was shared in a far off land, in a different culture, during a time of war, I got to grow up with a mom and a dad, and two more brothers and another sister, who then gave me 20 nieces and nephews, and 3 great-nephews. I owe my family, and my father owes his life, to a story.

October 5, 2013

Discovering Our Deepest Human Connection through Stories

Thank you to all who are responding to the question we, along with the International Storytelling Center, are asking at their upcoming festival, October 4-6, 2013, in Jonesborough, Tennessee. Early responses are already coming in for our question:

How might the art and power of storytelling contribute to global peace and collaboration in a troubled world?


Julie-GabrielliI recently had the experience of sitting with two women I had just met and listening to their stories. I was also able to tell a brief personal story. We all marveled at how vividly we lived into each other’s stories, how we were so easily right there with them. Storytelling opens us to wonder, enchantment and imagination – all of which are our birthright as humans. When we experience this deep, previously unobserved connection, we shift from “us” and “them”
to “we”.

It has been suggested that one of our core purposes on this earth is to be the storytellers, to use our imagination and love to give voice to our fellows in the community of life. And to listen – a sacred way of giving attention to another that connects and heals both people.

I love that you are asking this question; it’s my firm belief that there are new stories emerging through each of us – stories of belonging, welcome, abundance and connection – that are replacing the old cultural stories of scarcity, competition, separation, and superiority. Thank you for your important work.

Blessings.

Julie E. Gabrielli
Restorying retreats
Gabrielli Design Studio, LLC
Baltimore, Maryland

October 2, 2013

The Story of Who Owns the Land

Thank you to all who are responding to the question we, along with the International Storytelling Center, are asking at their upcoming festival, October 4-6, 2013, in Jonesborough, Tennessee. Early responses are already coming in for our question:

How might the art and power of storytelling contribute to global peace and collaboration in a troubled world?


From the Peace Parables series

Adapted & Performed by Denise Valentine (inspired by a version from Scandinavian folklore in The Storytellers Goddess by Carolyn McVickar Edwards)
Background Sounds: Freesound.org

Roots4Wings
www.denisevalentinestoryteller.com

DENISE VALENTINE, Storyteller
Philadelphia, PA 19126

October 2, 2013

Stories Help Us Remember that We are Human

Thank you to all who are responding to the question we, along with the International Storytelling Center, are asking at their upcoming festival, October 4-6, 2013, in Jonesborough, Tennessee. Early responses are already coming in for our question:

How might the art and power of storytelling contribute to global peace and collaboration in a troubled world?


When we tell stories we remember that we are human, when we listen to stories we remember that other people are human. Even when stories are about our differences, our uniqueness, they still remind us of what we all share in common. Stories are about love and anger, fear and courage, grief and healing, mischief and kindness. Sharing stories from our lives and from our cultures has the power to mend our broken relationships – with each other and with our world. Stories call us back to ourselves, back to each other – they remind us of what is really important and what doesn’t matter at all.

Rachel Rafferty
PhD Student, Peace and Conflict Studies
University of Otago, New Zealand

September 29, 2013

Storytelling Artists Stimulate Our Imaginations

Thank you to all who are responding to the question we, along with the International Storytelling Center, are asking at their upcoming festival, October 4-6, 2013, in Jonesborough, Tennessee. Early responses are already coming in for our question:

How might the art and power of storytelling contribute to global peace and collaboration in a troubled world?


Leon-Overbay“The performing Storytelling artist, by stimulating the imagination of the listener through their story in a collaborative manner, establishes a common ground which is the basis of community.”

Submitted by Leon Overbay, “The Boones Creek Bard” and founding member of The Jonesborough Storytellers Guild, and charter member of the Barter Storytellers.