My father told me when I was young that his mother, born in the Ukraine, used to tell stories every day. All the women in the neighborhood would gather on her front porch in the afternoons as she wove a complicated story, filled with twists and turns and plenty of clever humor. She would always end the day’s story with a tease ending when the women needed to get home to prepare dinner. The next day she would pick up the story line and continue the saga. He said that he thought one of his older brothers had tried to write a bunch of these stories down, but clearly all has been lost. I have always wondered what those stories were that were able to hold an audience day after day, week after week. They are a missing part of my heritage.
It was listening to NPR some years ago that I first learned of StoryCorps whose mission it is to preserve all of our stories. According to their website, they have collected and archived more than 30,000 interviews from more than 60,000 participants in the eight years since their founding. And the reason?
We do this to remind one another of our shared humanity, strengthen and build the connections between people, teach the value of listening, and weave into the fabric of our culture the understanding that every life matters.
The audios of the stories in their archives are moving and meaningful, well worth the exploration. They have even begun to animate some of them. The newest animation is below.
Though I will never be able to recapture the stories of my grandmother, there are plenty of other story riches to gather. The internet has certainly expanded our front porches.