Memory is a gift we give the future. The stories and remembrances that we tell about life experiences, a shared past, or loved ones who have passed away help keep the stories and memories alive. Telling and preserving these stories is a powerful way to honor the past.
The National Day of Listening is Friday, November 23, and an ideal time to capture the family stories that are told as friends and families gather for Thanksgiving. It was created by NPR's StoryCorps, which has lots of helpful ideas for questions to ask, and ways to record the stories.
Sample questions you can ask
- How would you describe yourself as a child?
- What was your first job?
- What was a typical day of your childhood like?
- What were your grandparents like?
- What wisdom do you want to pass onto great-great grandchildren?
- Who has been the most important person in your life?
- ALL the questions
The Great Thanksgiving Listen, and the StoryCorps app
Do you have a smartphone? Did you know that there is a StoryCorps app that will help you start conversations and record them? Imagine being able to listen to a loved one's voice after they are gone. I personally wish we had recorded my father. Now, nearly 40 years after he died, I remember moments, but I can no longer remember the timbre of his voice. Check out the StoryCorps app; it will help you:
- Figure out who to interview
- Find meaningful questions
- Share your interview online, or keep it for yourself
- There is even a Thanksgiving placemat you can print out to have at the table, and toolkits for teachers
Do it yourself!
Of course, you don't need the app. StoryCorps also has a nifty Do-It-Yourself Instruction Guide. "There’s no wrong way to do it. Just listen closely, and ask the questions you’ve always wanted to ask."
Special consideration: painful memories
Some things are too painful to talk about at the moment, and what these may be are different for everyone. This isn't an exposé or tell-all, it's a conversation. Listen, and respect their wishes to share what they want to share.
Special consideration: people with dementia
If a family member has dementia or memory loss, try playing music from an era of their lives, singing together, giving them something to hold, or asking about food they loved to make and eat.
Did you know we lend "Memory Kits" for conversations with friends and family who have memory loss? Here are just a few:
Bonus! StoryCorps books to read or listen to: