Our Opinion: Save grandma’s stories forever? This Thanksgiving, there’s an app for that

November 22nd, 2015 10:36 am

Would it be a good idea to …

… tell your story?

During the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, people – especially grandparents and elders – are encouraged to open up about their lives. And teens, as well as others, are urged to listen, record and preserve those conversations for posterity, creating a massive archive of previously underappreciated American history.

The Great Thanksgiving Listen, an initiative of the 12-year-old nonprofit known as StoryCorps, requires only a smartphone, the StoryCorps mobile app and a capacity to ask thoughtful questions. If you doubt your abilities as an interviewer, StoryCorps even supplies a list of “great questions.” Among its dozens of suggestions:

• “Where did you grow up, and what was your childhood like?”

• “If you could go back and relive your teenage years, would you? Why/why not?”

• “Tell me about some traditions that have been passed down through our family. When and how did they get started?”

• “Tell me about the person who has had the greatest influence on your life. What lessons did he or she teach you?”

• “Who has been the kindest to you and why?”

Promoters of this week’s event hope to engage high school teachers and their students in the activity, billed as StoryCorps’ “most ambitious project yet.” Since 2003, the organization has been appealing for people of all ages to participate in its accumulation of oral histories, all cataloged in the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. Its collections so far include love stories, veterans’ stories, Latino stories and reflections on the Sept. 11, 2011, terrorist attacks. One offshoot of the project, called the Memory Loss Initiative, focuses on preserving reminiscences of people with dementia and similar conditions.

The conversations, some of which air on National Public Radio, are always personal and often poignant.

Most anyone with a few years behind him or her has accumulated a series of sorrows and triumphs, loves and losses, moments of serendipity and salvation, things in which they take pride and some regrets. Together, it’s called wisdom.

And it’s worthy of catching our collective ear.

Is there someone in your life whose story should be told and shared? Can listening become part of your Thanksgiving tradition?

On the flip side, are you ready and willing to be heard?

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