My nine year old granddaughter, Alden, joined me last Sunday morning on WBRH, the public radio station at Baton Rouge Magnet High School, when I did a three hour long big band music show for my friend Fritz McCameron (who took a well-deserved day off). For the first time, Alden got to hear me on the air, and she got to see the studio where I did the show. More importantly, she got to see me doing something that has been an important part of my life, off and on, for 34 years. As long as she lives, she will have those memories, and the memory of speaking live on radio twice while she was with me.
Not everyone can have the interaction that we had that morning, but we can all tell the people we care about the things that are important to us. In my case, I need to tell my children and my granddaughter the things that happened to me – the things that, for better or for worse, helped to made me who I am.
But, how can we insure that our stories won’t be forgotten? That’s where StoryCorps comes in. Over the past ten years StoryCorps has collected about fifty thousand stories of common folks talking with friends and family members about their lives, and the things that shaped them. This oral history project was recently the subject of a Morning Edition segment on NPR, and of an excellent CBS This Morning segment just yesterday. Every story is part of the StoryCorp archive, and every story is available to all of us. You can listen to the stories that NPR has run here, and you can hear all of stories (including some with animated shorts) at the StoryCorp website. There are also a number of books that group the stories by categories. They include Ties That Bind: Stories of Love and Gratitude from the First Ten Years of StoryCorps, and Mom: A Celebration of Mothers from StoryCorps. Additionally there are two PBS DVDs, StoryCorps: Animated Shorts and Listening Is an Act of Love: StoryCorps Spceial. Regardless of where or how you encounter these stories, expect to be deeply touched by them.
Now, here’s the important take-away for all of us: We need to share our life experiences with the people who are important to us while we can. We need to let them know about our struggles, and our joys. We need to let them know what we experienced as our lives unfolded. You don’t have to have access to a StoryCorps booth to do this, you simply have to take time to talk – to talk honestly and openly – about your life. You may think that no one would be interested in what has happened to you. In reality, what you pass along through your life stories might be the most important legacy that you could possibly leave behind.