Just Listen*


My son's 5th grade class volunteers about once a month at an assisted living center near his school. Their mission: to listen. They spend about 45 minutes taking turns listening to elders in this community share some of their life experiences. It's a guided exercise broken down into short segments so they get to talk to several elders in one visit. There is a format. They are to look at their "grandpartner" and if they feel comfortable, hold their hand while they listen. To see these 10 year olds, on the cusp of their "whatever" teenage years, engage with elders like this, is so poignant and touching it just breaks my heart wide open. I hope when I get old some young person will gently take my hand and just….listen. 

In the spirit of listening, which is a skill that is sorely lacking in today's "tell all" culture, NPR has launched a very cool program this week called,  The National Day of Listening. Officially it's the day after Thanksgiving, but they are encouraging people to learn about and train themselves to be listeners. The idea has sprung of out of the StoryCorps project which is one of my favorite things about Friday mornings on NPR. Their tag line is, "Listening is an Act of Love" and their mission is to "honor and celebrate one another's lives through listening." StoryCorps has a traveling soundbooth/airstream trailer that travels the country and sets up so people can record their stories. Thousands of people's stories are archived at the StoryCorps website – give a listen you'll be inspired by the journeys people just like you and me have taken.

The National Day of Listening encourages all of us to listen and record our own stories. This short video clip shows you how. No fancy equipment or StoryCorps booth needed. Just set aside one hour the day after Thanksgiving and record a conversation with someone who is close to you.

All we need to do is really just listen. Open up to someone else's story.By listening closely to one another, we can help illuminate the true character of this nation reminding us all just how precious each day can be and how truly great it is to be alive.

-Dave Isay, Founder, StoryCorps

*In a funny turn of events Lisa and I have blogged about the same thing. 12 hours apart. Without knowing what the other one was doing. It was bound to happen. Two good friends. Both bloggers. Both BIG NPR and story telling fans. But in all fairness, Lisa spins a much better yarn than I do. And to that end check out our synchronicity here and her wonderful story telling blog, Gypsy Bonfire, here. She's got some great stories to share.

4 Responses to Just Listen*

  1. Lisa Hoffman says:

    I LOVE It when kids take a moment to slow down and listen. I used to pass up playing outside so that I could curl up by my grandmother and ask her to tell that story…”you know, the one you always tell about meeting Grandfather?…”
    again and again and again, and……..

    I love our Double-Posts. As you said, some day we’ll be finishing each others sentences!

  2. stephanie says:

    Yes! Love that you and Lisa are on the same page…this has been such a great series to listen to. I sooo wish I had brought along a tape recorder for my converstaions with my grandmother, I always thought I’d never forget those details….but yes, gone.

    Happy Thanksgiving Fran!


  3. In the pic of the seniors with the kids, I love the pair in the middle — the woman who is so focused on the kid, and the kid who is tentatively but definitely meeting her gaze….

    In the midst of all that activity, the two of them are … a unit…………

  4. Kathleen says:

    Thanks so much for posting about StoryCorps’ National Day of Listening. For anyone who did participate, or are planning on recording their loved ones this holiday season, a great last minute gift idea is to pair a copy of the interview with a copy of the New York Times bestseller “Listening is an Act of Love.” This compilation of just some of StoryCorps’ amazing, touching stories provides a meaningful addition to the holiday season, and gives that special someone even more incredible stories to read! The book can be linked to (as well as recording tips) at http://www.storycorps.net.

    Best wishes for the new year,

Leave a reply