Stories are heavy. Each stream of words strung together carries with it the baggage of culture, purpose and humanity. Stories are proof that we exist.
Dave Isay, the founder of StoryCorps, is on a mission to empower our society through listening and story telling. He began his mission by inviting busy people rushing through Grand Central Station to enter a booth that StoryCorps had set up. Each participant would sit down and ask their companion, be it family member, significant other, friend or stranger, insightful questions. “Who has been kindest to you in your life? What is your proudest accomplishment? What is your favorite memory of me?” The interviews were recorded in two different places: one on a CD for the interviewer and interviewee to keep, and one in the StoryCorps archive at the American Folklife Center in the Library of Congress. Interview by interview, StoryCorps is collecting our experiences.
Think about the power behind this concept. In his TED talk, Dave paints a picture of what might happen through a simple assignment. If every U.S. history student across America were instructed to interview one elderly person over Thanksgiving, asking them five questions and recording the answers through StoryCorps, we could collect the experiences, insights, and stories of an entire generation in a single weekend. Through this app, my great-great-great-great-granddaughter might be able to look up my grandmother in the Library of Congress and hear her story, told in her own voice. That is beautiful.
We all have stories that deserve to be heard. That’s the core of Dave’s mission. “We do this to remind one another of our shared humanity, to strengthen and build the connections between people, to teach the value of listening, and to weave into the fabric of our culture the understanding that everyone’s story matters,” their website reads. They’ve built incredible initiatives into the program, growing exponentially from that initial booth in New York City. They’ve designed a smart phone app that lets you interview people spontaneously and ubiquitously and they’ve launched separate initiatives to record the stories specifically of military personnel, those suffering from serious illnesses, of people who lost loved ones in 9/11, those with memory loss, teachers and different minority groups. Physical booths continue to exist and thrive in Atlanta, San Francisco, and Chicago with custom services available for locations upon request.
Our stories will outlast us and Storycorps can ensure that our voices carry on. This is a graceful and moving way to let humans teach each other about each other, to help us all understand that people are simply people, composed of the same matter, emotion, and insights. We all learn and grow and create. We all, each and every one of us, are made up of stories that need to be told and deserve to be heard.
(All pictures taken from Google)