StoryCorps 1st Annual National Day of Listening, November 28
Flickr photo: Jana Mills
Tomorrow we sit down with our family and friends to give thanks for all we have, personally as well as collectively. I recently read an article where the average organic Thanksgiving dinner costs an additional $100 more than a non-organic dinner. Organic or not, shopping for a Thanksgiving meal is no low-budget event. Then comes black Friday, which is traditionally one of the busiest shopping days of the year as families get a head start on their holiday shopping. It will be interesting to see how the retail climate will be affected by this year’s financial crisis. Prices are already being slashed and daily I am receiving significant discount coupons for merchants that normally don’t discount.
Which is where StoryCorps comes in. A non-profit organization whose goal is to instruct and inspire ordinary Americans to capture one anothers stories, StoryCorps is starting a new tradition this year. Instead of hitting the malls on November 28th, they are encouraging Americans, while gathered with their family members, to participate in the 1st annual National Day of Listening to begin the process of capturing the stories and memories of one another.
Recognizing that working on a personal history is no small feat, StoryCorps suggests you start small. With just one person, sit down with some type of recording device and start talking. Ask questions and listen, really listen. Learn who that person is, what their earliest memories are, what’s shaped the turns their lives have made and what they want you (and other generations to follow) to know about things that are important to them.
We often tend to relate to some of our relatives as “oh, Uncle Joe. He told funny jokes and always smoked a cigar.” We know how Joe interacts as part of our family group but do we really know him?
This project can be one or a multi-generational project. I love to get younger children interviewing their grandparents. It’s a lot of fun coaching them on the questions to ask and it is usually a fun exchange to watch. StoryCorps has created a downloadable guide to get you started. They also have a slick little question generator which helps you create a list of questions that might pertain to each person you interview. You can also look at my article, “Effective Interviewing Techniques for Video Histories” for other tips and suggestions.
Consider what a gift this can be; to the person you choose to interview, to your family who will now have this recording to cherish for future generations, to StoryCorps should you decide to give them a copy of the story. Consider this is also a gift for you. The joy that comes with helping another tell their story is one that I can’t even begin to describe but believe me, it has no comparison in any mall. It is truly priceless.
Stefani Twyford is a personal historian and video biographer sharing life stories, connecting generations and preserving legacies. To learn more, visit her web site, find her on Twitter as @stefanitwyford, visit the Legacy Multimedia Facebook Fan Page, or send her an e-mail.