“The mission of StoryCorps is to honor and celebrate one another’s lives through listening.”
Last week at my mother’s birthday lunch, I listened to my Grandpa Grubbs tell us about making sorghum molasses when he was in high school. It was a fascinating story I had never heard before. Then this weekend, the Nickerson family gathered to celebrate Grandma Mary’s 90th birthday. I didn’t hear her tell any stories, but I saw a picture of the cabin where she was born in the foothills of northern California. I wanted to ask her about that cabin and what it was like living there.
Opportunities like this don’t come around often, but the holiday season is a great time to take advantage of them when they do! In that spirit, the StoryCorps campaign from NPR has dubbed Friday, November 27, 2009, as the National Day of Listening.
StoryCorps is an oral history project that records the interviews of loved ones and keeps a copy for posterity. You choose someone you would like to interview (a parent, grandparent, neighbor, etc.), and StoryCorps helps you make it happen. StoryCorps trailers travel the country, as well as having several permanent locations, and you can book time in their recording studios all over the U.S. The compilation book from the founder of StoryCorps is titled Listening is an Act of Love. Over 10,000 conversations have already been recorded. And besides this formal arrangement, StoryCorps is also inspiring Americans to try the same project for their own enjoyment and memory keeping. That’s the National Day of Listening!
The StoryCorps website has all kinds of tools and resources to help you complete an unofficial oral history with someone you love. Look it up! There are all kinds of ways to participate. Some of you would totally love the idea of gathering some recording equipment and preparing a list of questions (they even have a master list of Great Questions for you to consider). Others of you might just use this as an excuse to ask a loved one what their greatest joy in life has been and write it down on a piece of paper.
How about it, think you could do a little of that over the course of this holiday week? I’m going to be teaching about this, so I’d love your feedback. Who would you interview on the National Day of Listening? And what would you ask?
I hope you’ll take advantage of the National Day of Listening, even if you do it informally. Because, too often, our holiday gatherings don’t include as much listening as they should. Sometimes they look a lot more like this instead: