A few days after Thanksgiving my grandma turns 97 years old. She has almost 100 years of stories to tell, and as often as I am able, I sit and informally interview her - asking questions, probing for details, occasionally nudging her for more info as she belly laughs, or sighs, shakes her head, smiles, or gets teary eyed, remembering the many moments of her life's journey.
She has a plaque that has hung in her hall for many years. It reads, "Age is a matter of mind: If you don't mind, it doesn't matter." Last week Grandma told me she did not feel she'd lived nearly 100 years - it goes by so quickly she says. I couldn't help but hear the Five for Fighting tune in my head, "...When you only got a hundred years to live..." ♪ ♫ ♩ ♬
With my own mom/partner/career duties 1200 miles away, I don't get to spend as much quality time with Grandma as I used to. We don't get to have our repeat matches of Uno and Chinese Checkers, or stay up late into the wee hours of the morning looking at photos from 70 years ago. She and I are not able to be together nearly enough these days. Grandma grew up a farm girl in the rolling cow-filled pastures of Wisconsin, the state she has always called home, and Midwest winters usually keep me beach-side in my own adobe due to high ticket prices and the ever present delay/cancellation/weather interference of Wisconsin's snow/sleet/ice winters.
But this year, the day after Thanksgiving, on the National Day of Listening, I am going to take advantage of joining with thousands of others across the nation to sit down and really listen. Rather than get swept up in the furry that is Black Friday, I'll be sipping hot cocoa with Grandma and imagining her days of driving a sleigh, playing baseball, attending "Normal School," and chasing cows under the railroad track overpass before dinner...
Her stories are those I look forward to with eager anticipation. They are the makings of the best movies and deepest novels ever written... They are real and raw and a part of my own heritage and history. The really juicy (occasionally scandalous) details are few and far between - but if I listen well, and pose inquiries just right - Grandma opens up on birth and babies, sex and marriage, God and faith, breastfeeding and intactivism, friendship and family, forgiveness and trust, human rights and justice, living and dying... These, and every story in between, are treasures that I hold - soak in - and know I will cherish for my own lifetime to come. Maybe they will even be those tales that I, too, reflect upon when I am someday 97 years wise...
I encourage you to pick out a person in your life, and join with me in interviewing on November 26th. We learn much by asking questions, and even more by truly listening and consuming responses from those who've lived before us, or live around us, or live entirely different lives than us, have to say. In fact, you may even wish to consider sitting down, without the distractions of television, video games, cell phones, and the internet, and instead, take the day to really listen to your kids...
For further information, visit The National Day of Listening page or StoryCorps.
The following is the National Day of Listening 2010 press release from StoryCorps as sent to Peaceful Parenting:
The national nonprofit organization, StoryCorps, has announced the third annual National Day of Listening to take place on November 26, 2010. The National Day of Listening is an effort to encourage Americans of all backgrounds and beliefs to interview a friend, loved one, or member of their community about their lives on the day after Thanksgiving.
StoryCorps recommends that participants record their National Day of Listening conversations using equipment that is already available to them—a computer, mobile phone, tape recorder, or even pen and paper. At nationaldayoflistening.org StoryCorps offers a free Do-It-Yourself Instruction Guide with equipment recommendations, great questions to ask, and ideas for preserving and sharing National Day of Listening interviews.
“In an era of fierce political and cultural divides, we hope that the idea of listening to one another during the holiday season resonates with many Americans,” says StoryCorps Founder and MacArthur 'Genius' Dave Isay. “Through our National Day of Listening, StoryCorps hopes to remind Americans of all stripes how much more unites us than divides us.”
Thousands of Americans have already taken part in the National Day of Listening, including families, educators, and local organizations, who have embraced the National Day of Listening as a way to incorporate StoryCorps’ interviewing techniques into their programs. The National Day of Listening occurs every year on the day after Thanksgiving—offering a holiday alternative to Black Friday shopping sprees. If participants are unable to record an interview on the official National Day of Listening, StoryCorps encourages them to record Do-It-Yourself interviews throughout the holiday season.
Sponsorship of the 2010 National Day of Listening is provided by The Fetzer Institute. NPR is a national partner of the National Day of Listening—and will broadcast a special series of National Day of Listening interviews during the week leading up to Thanksgiving.
StoryCorps is a national nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide Americans of all backgrounds and beliefs with the opportunity to record, share, and preserve the stories of our lives. Each week, millions of Americans listen to StoryCorps’ award-winning broadcasts on NPR’s Morning Edition. StoryCorps has published two best-selling books: Listening Is an Act of Love in 2007 and Mom: A Celebration of Mothers from StoryCorps in 2010. For more information, or to listen to stories online, visit storycorps.org.
About The Fetzer Institute
The Fetzer Institute is a private operating foundation based in Kalamazoo, Michigan, that engages with people and programs committed to bringing the power of love, forgiveness, and compassion to the center of individual, organizational, and community life. Founded by broadcast pioneer John E. Fetzer, the Institute convenes people from many sectors of society to envision projects that support individuals everywhere in becoming more loving and forgiving. The Institute’s work is grounded in the conviction that the connection between the inner life of mind and spirit and the outer life of service and action in the world holds the key to lasting change. All of its activities—past, present, and future—are united by a desire to improve the human condition by increasing awareness of the power of love, forgiveness, and compassion to transform our world. Learn more at Fetzer.org.