“The Shepherd’s Story”
Here’s a journal of the journey this year.
— Jimmy Dunne.
The journey began with this book when Father Liam Kidney, at Corpus Christi Parish in Pacific Palisades — ask me, at a town Christmas party, if I had any great ideas for an upcoming Christmas homily.
That night, at 3 in the morning, I scribbled out The Shepherd’s Story in bed.
Father Kidney read the story about the Shepherd Boy’s journey of finding the wonder of life in the birth of a child — and the difference one child can make in the world.
Parishioners loved it, as did families and parishes all around the country that discovered it on social media — and it virally spread everywhere.
Over the next few years, more and more parishes were retelling the story at Christmas services — and schools began creating school plays of The Shepherd’s Story.
Loyola Press (the largest religious publisher in the world), published the book and engaged famed illustrator Ivan Kravets from Ukraine.
Fantastic things started happening…
With all-things Covid, and with so many challenged families around the country, friends of mine stepped up.
6,000+ books have been gifted to families and entire parishes in Shinnston, South Charleston, St. Albans, Summersville, Montgomery, Houma, Elkins and Gassaway, West Virginia; New Orleans and Ama, Louisiana; Boston, Massachusetts; Canton, Forest, and Carthage, Mississippi; Los Angeles, Encino, Pacific Palisades, Oxnard, Santa Monica and Orange, California; Oak Park and Chicago, Illinois; Galveston, Texas; Lafayette, Louisiana; and Williamsport, Pennsylvania.
I wrote a song version of The Shepherd’s Story — and a video was created. It’s a part of Christmas Eve and Christmas virtual family services everywhere — as a new Christmas tradition has been born.
It’s the story of a down-on-his-luck boy with bigger dreams than being a Shepherd — who finds hope and promise in seeing the birth of a child, and realizing how one child make a difference in the world.
Dear friends Ted McGinley and Gigi Rice filmed a “Fireside Reading” — that has been shared everywhere…
Steve Robinson is a great pal.
He was a high school Irish-Catholic full of spit in the churn of Boston, with about a nickel in his pocket and hanging with the wrong kind of trouble.
Enter Father Conway, his young parish priest. He picked Steve out of the crowd — and knew there was something special. He spent many a day making sure Steve believe in somebody… himself.
Fast-forward 40 years.
On the edge of the other ocean, Steve is an extraordinary entrepreneurial success story — with an absolutely spectacular wife, three of the greatest kids, and a bazillion great buddies. And there’s not a day that Steve doesn’t look in the mirror and remember the rudder at that pivotal moment in his life.
A few weeks ago, Steve called his old parish priest, now in his eighties — who is still the beloved Pied Piper of the Boston neighborhoods.
Every single day Father Conway is pricked with the profound hurt so many families are banging against with all-things Covid.
Steve told him he just sent a pallet of the same thing he got a lifetime ago. Hope.
He said 2,000 gifts are showing up at his door — for every kid and family in his neighborhood. The Shepherd’s Story; a Christmas book about a young boy, down on his luck, who discovers the profound difference one person can have in the world.
Steve knew the best gift to give Father Conway — was a gift to his neighborhood family.
It’s getting late. As soon as I close up in a minute, I’m going to stand out in my backyard. And just look up.
Maybe I’ll see Saturn and Jupiter in each other’s path. Even though they’re hundreds of millions of miles from each other on their own extraordinary journeys — they’re close enough to light up the sky for all of us to take in.
These tough days can harden you. Anger you. Pull you away.
Steve Robinson and Father Conway. A light of Christmas.
May you look up at your sky on one of these Christmas nights, and may you find a bright light — that reminds you it’s time for all of us to dream.
To imagine. To wonder.
I have been doing Zoom calls with schools around the country; sharing the Shepherd’s story of hope and promise.
In his father’s grade school alma mater, St. Catherine’s Catholic School, I read the book to 900 kids from kindergarten to eighth grade.
SHEPHERD’S TREASURE HUNTS
My brothers and sisters, Marty and Alison, and I created something for our home town of La Grange – an incredible family suburb on the west side of Chicago.
We thought, with so many families stuck at home with their kids dealing with all-thing Covid, what if you created a town event that got everyone outside in a Covid-safe environment, celebrating the story of Christmas — and accentuating the greatest attributes of a community?
“The Shepherd’s Treasure Hunt.”
After a week of all the kids/families in town were buzzing over Facebook/Instagram images of a “Bigfoot” roaming around La Grange — they captured an image of “The Shepherd” in a Ring door video — at Alison Kelly’s home, a prominent La Grangian. The Shepherd was leaving a rolled parchment that held the first clue of a Shepherd’s Treasure Hunt for the entire town.
The next morning, there’s a long line out the door of Village Charm – the first stop on the town treasure hunt.
The Shepherd left clues at every store kids and families would travel on their quest — as they tried to uncover the encrypted code.
When they solved the code in the final destination — they learned the secret of Christmas. “U R the Gift of Christmas.”
They left the final store with a special, signed parchment from the Shepherd Boy, a Shepherd’s ornament, and a bag of candy goodies.
So much fun.
Great for families. Great for La Grange. Great for all the stores involved in the Shepherd’s Treasure Hunt.
Here’s a story that was in the “Chicago Tribune Doings”:
FOX GOOD DAY LA
LA’s leading morning news show where generous to air this story on Christmas Day…
SUMMING IT UP
The joy of this project?
Imagining a dad, trying to keep a smile on his face through tough days, taking a moment reading the book to his kids — and remembering that almost everybody has felt like that shepherd, sitting on a cold mountain, wondering when things will turn around in his favor.
Imagining a mom reading the story and being reminded of the beauty and strength and will of a woman — and the extraordinary noble cause and gift of mothering a child.
And imagining a child, reading the book, and hearing the shepherd whispering in his or her ear – that Christmas is their story. It’s about them, too. A story of hope. Of wonder. Of promise.
What a blessing it has been to collaborate with so many.
The talented, passionate and creative team at Loyola Press (under the fantastic leadership of Joellyn Cicciarelli).
My brilliant and full-of-life literary agent on the project, Jan Miller (who I absolutely adore).
The stunning illustrations of Ukranian Ivan Kravets.
The musical creativity of Stephan Oberhoff and the amazing kids from the LA School of the Arts.
La Grange’s “Shepherd’s Treasure Hunt” team of Shepherd Marty Dunne, videographer/photographer talented Maisy Dunne, influencer extraordinaire Alison Kelly, the fabulous President of the La Grange Business Association — Nancy Cummings, Vintage Charm’s absolutely brilliant and inspiring Nancy Allodi.
Ted McGinley and Gigi Rice lending their talents to their generous “Fireside Reading” and the creative work of Tyler Newman.
And so many amazingly generous friends that stepped-up to donate books to thousands of appreciative families this Christmas. Special thanks to the profound generosity of Steve Robinson and Mark Tabit.
We shared in telling a story of a journey that took us from the darkness of that mountaintop — to the light in witnessing a birth.
Until next year…