Monday, April 14, 2008

Stop and listen

If you want to hear a good story, tune into your public radio station on Friday mornings. The "Morning Edition" news show has a segment called "StoryCorps." Here's what happens...

Ordinary people walk into a booth in New York's Grand Central Station or in mobile booths around the country operated by the StoryCorps Project and tell the story of their lives. The idea of the project is to preserve personal history in oral form for the ages. The recordings are stored in the Library of Congress, and segments of these stories are broadcast on the PBS program. These conversations are riveting: touching, hilarious, tragic, frightening.

If you can't manage to listen to the radio or to the segments online, then you can buy the book - "Listening Is an Act of Love," edited by StoryCorps' creator, Dave Isay.

Something happens in that booth, when one friend talks to another, when a parent speaks to a child, when a husband listens to his wife. Emotions are released. Truth happens. In reading, you can almost hear the voices of Scott and Catherine Kohanek as they spin the improbable tale of a school janitor and a teacher who fall in love. Or prison inmates Paul Mortimer and Shawn Fox, exchanging regrets about their murders and drug use. Or Martha Conant, telling her daughter-in-law about how much more meaning her life and relationships have since she survived unhurt a plane crash in which 111 others died.

If there was ever a book that described the character of Americans, this is it.

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