The power of the human voice

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For as long as I can remember, I've loved stories. I loved writing stories, telling stories, and reading stories. Like many writers, as a kid, I often spent my days and nights reading; about the age of 8, I became car sick each time I tried to read in the car...it was devastating for me. How would I pass the time driving the two hours to my grandparents' house each weekend?! I realize this isn't the greatest quality, but as a kid, I could craft these amazing lies rife with details and color. Having an audience to listen to my stories filled me with the same kind of adrenaline I now feel when competing in athletic events.
Telling stories has often been one of my gifts in the classroom--it's how I've captivated so many of my own students. And now, as a more reserved adult, I tell stories by writing them down. I still love stories and storytelling--which is why I look forward to listening to Story Corps (a program that seeks to capture people's stories and present them in audio format) every Friday morning on my local public radio station.

My love affair with Story Corps began about five years ago. I don't remember which story initiated this relationship, but I remember the emotion that each story pulls from me. I've cried far too often while listening to my car radio. A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to interview my son, Jon, via Story Corps while they were parked in Omaha, and last week, a friend and I attended the listening party to celebrate the end of Story Corps' time in Omaha. Since that event, I've been thinking a lot about the power of the human voice. These stories recorded by the folks at Story Corps preserve something unique, something that books can't preserve: the human voice and all its nuances--the timbre, the cracks, each unique laugh, the pauses, and the sentiment we can portray through tone. Many of the stories I've heard on Story Corps are the last archived legacy of a person. This video (the first one posted on this website) is a special animated version of a Story Corps interview between a husband and wife that captures their relationship; he died a week after the interview was aired. If you aren't moved to tears by knowing this, then check your pulse to see if you're still alive.

I've listened to the recording of my 40 minute conversation with Jon several times since we recorded, and while it's not particularly interesting or evocative, I still love listening to it because it captures his voice. Literally, it captures his tiny, six year old voice, but on a more abstract level, it captures his personality, his interests. It's a great snapshot of who he is now. As a mother, I've come to learn that these snapshots will be so important to me when his voice is no longer so little and when his interests move beyond my reach.

If you haven't listened to Story Corps yet, click here to get started. I listen for my own pleasure and have used it in the classroom as well to teach about asking good questions of people or to study specific movements in history. There's even an app you can download to your phone or tablet to record your own stories.

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