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HPPR Arts, Culture & History

Jesus Loves The Little Children

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Jim Bowen from Hampstead, London, United Kingdom, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
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Hi, I’m Marcy McKay from Amarillo, author of Amazon’s #1 Hot New Release, When Life Feels Like a House Fire: Transforming Your Stress. I’m excited to be a Radio Reader for High Plains Public Radio’s Book Club.

Neither Wolf nor Dog is a quiet, thought-provoking story about an Indian elder named Dan who summons white author, Kent Nerburn, to tell the story of his people. The dance between the two personalities and cultures is fantastic, and worthy to have won the 1996 Minnesota Book Award.

It reminded me of my time in South Dakota during 2009, when I took a van full of grumpy teenagers on a Holy Pilgrimage there to study our Christian faith through the eyes of the Lakota Sioux. It was a life-changing week for me. I loved how they see everything so interconnected, from a blade of grass to each person in the tribe.

Everyone and everything holds equal value.

I was also excited because I’d never seen Mount Rushmore in person. Each Lakota speaker or tour guide we met was so calm, to the point of almost being Zen, but over and over, we heard variations of the same story.

Before I share that, let me paint you a visual first. What’s your favorite room in your house? The place where you spend the most time? Let’s say it’s the family room or den, where you all gather to watch TV or hang out together. Your doorbell rings, and it’s a stranger. This is back when it was safe to let a stranger inside, so you welcome him into your home and even give him a meal. After said stranger eats all of your food, he walks into your den and announces, “This is my house now.”

“That can’t be,” you chuckle. “This home has been in my family for generations.”

“Not anymore.” The stranger pulls a giant painting from his back pocket, then hangs the wall-size picture over all your stuff. It’s the faces of his four favorite buddies. As you’re stuttering and stammering about what just happened, he shoves you out the door, then locks it behind you. Suddenly, you see all your neighbors looking lost on their front porches, too.

What just happened?

In the book, Nerburn doesn’t understand why Dan the Elder summoned him thousands of miles from his Minnesota home, but Dan is certain Nerburn is the one to tell the story of his people. Through the various pairs of eyes, you see everyone’s lives differently.

Nobody disputes the Lakotas lived here in North America generations before us.

Nerburn and us white people arrived on boats. They might’ve been able to get along until the U.S. government discovered gold in the Black Hills, then things got ugly. And, bloody.

I want to be clear, not one Lakota speaker was rude, or shaming to my church group, but they all made the same point – how can you rebel against something that already belonged to you? The Badlands was their first. Still, it was a week I’ll never forget. You know what kept playing through my head as I went to sleep each night? A song from my Sunday School days:

Jesus loves the little children

All the children of the world

Red, brown, yellow, black and white

They are precious in his sight

Jesus loves the little children of the world.

So, those are my thoughts after Neither Wolf Nor Dog, a must-read book that is both beautiful and cleansing. Something we could all use after 2020. This is Marcy McKay, local author from Amarillo and Radio Reader from High Plains Public Radio. For more information, go to HPPR.org