We all want to share the important stories of our lives

Since 2012 I have republished some version of this essay to recognize StoryCorps’ National Day of Listening.

Here’s what I said then that is as important today as it was 6 years ago.

Everyone has an important story to tell

Everyone has a story to tell, and, given an opportunity, we all want to share the important stories of our lives, stories that explain who we are and where we came from, that prove we existed and mattered, that demonstrate our resilience, and that reveal the people and events that affected our lives. 

And we can all learn important lessons from one another’s stories.

StoryCorps’ “National Day of Listening” provides an opportunity to evoke those stories.

On the day after Thanksgiving, StoryCorps asks everyone to take a few minutes to record an interview with a family member or friend.

You can use recording equipment that is readily available to you, such as a computer, smart phone, tablet, or other voice or video recorder. 

StoryCorps provides a free Do It Yourself Instruction Guide.

The lesson that everyone has an important story to tell has been reinforced time and again for me as a hospice volunteer who has been privileged to record dozens of hospice patients discussing their lives in conversations with family members.

All that is required of us is to extend the invitation and to listen deeply without interruption to those stories. 

Once the conversation begins, it’s likely to proceed almost effortlessly, at least in my experience.

Some possible questions include:

• What elders or events influenced the person you’ve become?

• How would you like to be remembered?

• What advice would you like to pass along to your children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, or others in your life?

There’s no gift human beings can give one another that is more important and precious than our undivided attention and genuine interest in the stories we all have to tell.

When that attention promotes storytelling that is preserved with video or voice recordings, it is a gift that benefits future generations for decades to come.


How have stories and storytelling shaped your life?

To whom would you like to reach out—an elder, a family member or friend, a veteran, a colleague, or a neighbor, for example—to invite his or her storytelling?

1 Response to “We all want to share the important stories of our lives”

  1. 1 rickrepicky November 27, 2018 at 7:02 pm

    Dennis, Sorry for this late reply to another thought-provoking post. I just finished reading Harvard professor & presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book “Wait Till Next Year.” The book is a sharp departure from her academic work. Instead, it tells the tale of what it was like to grow up in a tightly-knit 1950’s community having loving family, caring neighbors, inspiring teachers, and being a fan of the Brooklyn Dodgers. I took the Dodgers as a metaphor for the realities of life–a constant struggle as shown by the team’s near misses, utter failures, and one championship. Our struggles, however, can be greatly tempered by the support that surrounds us.

    I’m not doing the book justice, but it does support the potential of interviews. Just as interviewing a person can open our eyes to new insights, this book rekindled memories of the challenges & great times I faced as a kid. More importantly, it drove home the importance of who was there to support me or celebrate with me. It renewed my awareness of the importance of being there for others as we all deal with life’s curve balls.

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