Thursday, May 28, 2009

Listening - the StoryCorps Gift Idea

Originally Posted on the Common Threads Blog,
Centre Daily Times, November 18, 2008

I was intrigued when I heard the concept of the National Day of Listening, on NPR.

Thanks to Google, I soon found out about StoryCorps, a nonprofit organization, that has declared November 28, 2008 the first annual National Day of Listening.

StoryCorps was founded to help Americans record their stories, thereby preserving Ourstories - not just the histories of our leaders, but the history of common people. StoryCorps booths have been set up in different geographical locations.

They are also being used to capture the specific history of groups dispersed across the country – some examples of these are of people affected by 9/11, African Americans and even those who are losing their memory to diseases like Alzheimer’s.

As I read about StoryCorps, I thought of their slogan of “Listening is the greatest gift.” Of course, each of us has a story. And that story can be discovered only when someone else takes the time to both ask questions and to listen.

To the grandparent that lived through a recession, or a war, and the one that did not do either. To the parent that had a fairy tale childhood and the one that did not. To the aunt that broke barriers and the one that did not. To the uncle that was scarred by the death of a sibling, and the one that did not live up to his potential.

Each one of us has a story, a story of being defined by the details of the particular cards that are dealt to us. And our lives are but a collection of the memories that make up our story, as we respond to these specific cards.

Our memories can also create and affect the history of the others that wander into our lives, and into whose lives we wander. They can empower them or affect them negatively – but they certainly can teach them about the lessons of possibilities, about forks in the road, about choices made, and journeys undertaken.

More importantly, though, listening to each other’s stories creates bonds, and we are no longer strangers. Both participants gain value to their lives by the act of speaking and listening with empathy. And bit by bit, like “The Little Prince,” we may begin to care, and may even understand - both the meaning of their lives and that of ours.

This National Day of Listening is a good thing. I do not plan to rent the StoryCorps kit, but I certainly like the idea of practicing more listening in my life. More active listening to my daughter and the rest of my family, my friends and my acquaintances – that would be the first step. We all seem to run around in our own little worlds, and I know that even if I have the inclination, making the time for it would be a very hard challenge.

But I plan to try, and once I do more of this, perhaps actively “listening” to strangers would also come more naturally to me – and the precarious world we live in today could certainly use more of the empathy that would come with such interactions.

No comments: