A bus driver guides a frail, elderly woman off his bus and over to an unfamiliar restaurant a few steps away where she's meeting friends. As he turns to leave she whispers: "You are the first person to guide me since my husband died five years ago." A teenager confesses her cutting became addictive, and how her love of her mother and best friend helps her get by. Over 50,000 people have sat down in a booth with a simple recorder and a volunteer, ready to tell a life-changing story, to declare their love, acknowledge their regret and more.
At StoryCorps booths around the country. people opened up their hearts and shared because someone was ready to listen. As founder, Dave Isay says: "We can learn so much about the people all around us -- even about the people we already know -- just by taking the time to have a conversation." Yet you don't need a StoryCorps booth to preserve and commemorate your loved ones' lives.
Over this holiday, why not spend an hour asking a loved one about their life, and recording it for the family and to demonstrate that their life matters to you?
Don't be one of those who says later on: "I only wish I had asked my mother and father to tell their stories -- and share my story about them."
Over the past years, I've sat several times at my dining room table, with the view of Angel Island out the window, a recording device in hand -- and asked my parents to tell me about growing up, falling in love, raising us four children, and what they most believe in and why.
One story I've heard since childhood still chokes me up. While serving in World War II, Dad and his brother, Harold, stationed thousand miles apart in the U.S., went AWOL. They were to be sent overseas shortly. From letters my grandmother wrote to them, they located each other, and somehow agreed to meet in a cafe in a small town, located mid-distance between them. Dad came first, and waited several hours, drinking several cups of coffee and eating a grilled cheese. But when Harold walked in and sat down, they mostly talked about small things. The cherries their mom was canning, the songs their sister was playing on the piano for their Lutheran church's Christmas service, and combat training.
Knowing they might not see each other again, they synchronized their watches and made a plan in their usual, logical Danish way. At precisely 2:00 p.m., they would rise from the table, walk out the door, one turning left and the other right, not looking back.
Who knows what unexpected stories you might hear from a family member or other loved one you thought you knew well? And who knows who might not be around this time next year? You may be the first person in their life they felt would truly sit still and listen to their story. You may be the the greatest angel in their life this holiday.
Follow Kare Anderson on Twitter: www.twitter.com/kareanderson