YOU TURNED THE PAGE! Maybe you do not understand. You see, turning pages will bring us to the end of this book, and there is a Monster at the end of this book.
from The Monster at the End of This Book
written by Jon Stone
illustrated by Michael Smollin
Golden Books, 1971
We can all identify with Grover. We know what it feels like to be afraid and unable to stop a scary event from happening. As we get closer and closer to the end of his book, Grover pleads with his readers to no avail. The last page is finally turned, and what was so scary turns out to not scary at all.
But that’s not always real life.
Sometimes things *are* very scary. Sometimes we can’t stop them from happening, and sometimes, the ending is not what we expected, but not in a good way. Other peoples’ stories help us cope with the questions, troubles, and perceived problems in our own lives.
Stories can be made up or true (or True). They can have drama, mystery, violence, compassion. They can be comfortable or disturbing. Stories can be universal or particular to a person or group. They can teach, show us different points of view, describe familiar places and places we’ll probably never experience.
Humans are hard-wired to emotion-based stories. Whether on a screen, in a book, or on air, we respond to a story by identifying with the characters, the story’s people. The closer we are to stepping into their shoes, the more we learn of their motivations. That helps us understand them, and ourselves, too. Because we’re all human, we can learn something from everyone’s story.
That was one of Dave Isay’s ideas when he built the first StoryCorps booth in Grand Central Terminal in New York City and invited people to come in and talk to each other. And people did.
He wanted to build an archive of regular people talking about the extraordinariness that makes their lives unique. He believes peoples’ stories are valuable and storytellers need to be honored for the brave act they are doing by sharing their stories.
Dave knew early on that it’s not always easy to ask questions of the ones who mean the most to us, so a trained facilitator is present with the people in the booth. The facilitator welcomes the participants, guides them through their conversation process, handles all the technology, and ensures that the experience is positive for everyone.
Over 325,000 interviews are housed and searchable on the American Folklife Center’s website and in their reading room in the Library of Congress in Washington, DC. The collection is continually growing. Here’s a link to get you started listening to heartwarming, sincere, and relatable real people telling their real stories. Each is under 10 minutes long, but longer interviews are also archived.
StoryCorps has developed an online app that you can use to tell your story, but you can still request an in-person conversation. An enormous amount of information is on their website: StoryCorps.org and under each of the tabs.
The mission of StoryCorps is “to preserve and share humanity’s stories in order to build connections between people and create a more just and compassionate world.” They want to remind us of our shared humanity. They want to help strengthen and build the connections between people. Listening is a core (Corps) value. By “weaving our own stories into the fabric of our culture” we’ll come to understand that everyone’s story matters.
Lofty goals, yes. But achievable? Listen for yourself! NPR broadcasts one 3-minute interview every Friday morning on my local station. You can listen to past recordings here.
If that gets you hooked on listening, try one (or more) of these:
This American Life
How I Built This
I’m reading an historical fiction, Mother Daughter Traitor Spy by Susan Elia MacNeal. (Penguin/Random House, 2022). At only about 100 pages in, I’m already hooked. The mother/daughter relationship, so far at least, feels realistic. The plot is gripping. The main characters become undercover Nazi-hunters living in California in the late 1930s and early 1940s.
I’ll soon see how it all shakes out, but I’m optimistic that it’ll be a good one. I’ll let you know next week!
-—be curious! (and listen to each other)