Story to Tell

When I fall down the TED Talk rabbit hole, I sometimes get bored and don’t find much that really grabs my attention. I mean, learning something new is great, but some talks make me comment out loud and leave me deep in thought and awe.

Dave Isay is the founder of StoryCorps, a project I have never heard about before watching this talk. Of course, I highly recommend watching it, especially if you enjoy feel-good things. Isay, after always having a passion for recording the stories and voices of those around him, created a booth in New York’s Grand Central Terminal in 2003.

In this booth, you and somebody else simply have a conversation. A personal interview, where you can ask them anything. A facilitator is present at the booth to help. You can spend about an hour there and ask a loved one anything, which is then recorded and saved for yourself and also documented in the Library of Congress. A future generation, a great-great grandchild could go back and listen and learn about their descendants.

Obviously there are other means of documenting your life. Taking photographs, writing things, whatever floats your boat. But I do see something real and raw in having this eternal keepsake depicting people in the moment, their own voices continuing to speak long after passing. And this isn’t something you have to tote around and let it sit in an attic or basement collecting dust.

With the success of StoryCorps, the entity has expanded to those of all religions, economic statuses, genders, sexualities, ages, ethnicities, religions, and languages. There have been recording booths in hundreds of locations, and with all the facilitators who have been involved with the project, one common theme stands out: humanity is innately, truly good.

In today’s media storm, of flashy headlines and constant devastating news, it’s so easy to focus on the negative impact people have on the world, over seven billion of us making decisions and often making mistakes. We dwell so much on those mistakes that keep the 24/7 news cycle running, we’re already onto the next news article or one of those one-minute viral videos before there’s even a chance to dive deeper. We get the surface-level material, and we think that’s enough.

But life is so much deeper than a summarized paragraph or one minute slideshow with subtitles. The things we can learn from each other if we take the time to listen are astounding. Breaking news updates aren’t meant to make sure nothing is left unsaid, to make sure nobody has been silenced or misunderstood. The stories and information covered becomes repetitive, a single story from multiple biased perspectives.

I believe every single person has a unique voice and purpose to share with the world, as cliche as that sounds. News producers and entities are supposed to be there to mediate that exchange of information, but when they try to stimulate an audience with flashy stories and scandals, they don’t do people justice. Instead, news entities are creating makeshift “scenes” to report from, rely on the same people and experts for “another perspective,” and cover so much of the crime, violence, and injustice in the world, we become numb to anything less than sensational.

Before I got more into podcasts, I didn’t really consider audio as an ideal medium for capturing information, stories and memories. I even thought that after working almost a year at a public radio station. That’s probably because 98% of the reporting I did was for random assignments I didn’t have much emotional attachment to. But since getting sucked into audio storytelling, I now appreciate how beautiful it can be to hear people, real or fiction, immersed in a story or conversation. It reignites a desire and curiosity to learn more, to go deeply into a single topic that spreading out information so thinly, it all jumbles together and sets people up to only want the bare minimum.

We should be hungry for more. We should be motivated to not accept the shortened version. Let us not lose that yearning to hear a story, to learn about our past and the lives of others. To trust people enough to even want to partake in a project like StoryCorps, knowing what you say will be documented forever. That takes guts. You know in those recordings, there is no filter to sway in one direction over another, no clickbait, not even necessarily a photo to put a face to that voice and immediately form a judgement about somebody before hearing what they truly have to say. Sometimes we need to go into things blindly. In those times, that is when we see.

Of all the stories to tell, only a fraction of which each of us might encounter, they will all revert back to genuine goodness. To love, hope, and acceptance. To not let others leave this world and become fading, forgotten memories. Each voice matters. It’s time to listen.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie


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