Wednesday, November 19, 2008

National Day of Listening

I believe in the power of stories.

Since ancient times, we have been transmitting our values, our wisdom, and our experiences through storytelling. Each of us has a story to share. Every one of our lives counts.

So my ears perked up when a woman named Amy from StoryCorps emailed me earlier this week to let me know that StoryCorps is proclaiming November 28th to be the first annual National Day of Listening.

According to its website, StoryCorps is "one of the largest oral history projects of its kind." Through its efforts, more than 40,000 Americans have recorded their stories. Its mission is simple: "To help people honor and celebrate one another's lives through listening."

This holiday season StoryCorps is encouraging us all to ask the people around us--our grandparents, our teachers, our neighbors--about their lives. "By listening to their stories," the StoryCorps folks note, "you will be telling them that they matter and they will never be forgotten. It may be the most meaningful time you spend this year. . . .

"Listening is an act of love."

Click here to find out how to participate.


  1. Prill, very interesting you posted this today. My mother just died and I asked some of her nieces and nephews to contribute to a little book of memories about her (personal publishing). One was that she was the family story teller. To take that a step farther, she instilled that in me. One more step: I retold many of her stories in "Harkening: A Collection of Stories Remembered." They are true stories, retold with dialogue like fiction so they're fun reading. (BTW, it's available on Amazon!)

    Ahh, storytelling. And we don't do it well, or sometimes at all, if we aren't listening.

    Carolyn Howard-Johnson
    Author of the multi award-winning "Harkening."
    Learn more at

  2. This is an awesome idea! Thank you for sharing. In my volunteer work with Frankie at a hospice community we are taught that listening is the best thing we can do for the patients. It is a skill and not always easy to do. But I am finding such pleasure in hearing others stories. It is so rewarding to hear all these stories!

  3. I asked my grandmother to tell the story about how she and my grandfather met. I recorded it and gave copies to all the grandchildren.

    I will cherish the memory and the document I still read.

  4. First of all, Carolyn, I'm so sorry to hear about your mom. I can't imagine how I'm going to feel when my own mother eventually dies. She's in good health now; but as my husband the hospice volunteer is fond of saying, "We're all just a breath away from eternity."

    And, yes, Barbara, my husband says the same thing about hospice and listening. Sometimes he just silently sits next to the person he's assigned to. Mike is the kind of man who doesn't feel a need to talk unless he has something to say. He's always happy to listen, though.

    And finally, Allyn, I, too, have taken the time to tape stories of loved ones. At one point, I had my mom and her sister sit down and talk about some of their experiences growing up in New Martinsville, West Virginia. It was interesting to me how their memories didn't always match. My mom would be certain a particular event happened one way while my aunt would insist it happened another. Together, though, they wove a rich and textured tapestry of life in small-town America in the 30s and 40s.

  5. Anonymous9:01 AM

    I love listening to stories. My grandmother is recording her life on video and I can't wait to see/listen to it.