Tell me a story

Thisanjali Gangoda

There are so many moments in my life, especially of late, where I wished I had a tape recorder. The conversations I’ve held with loved ones and strangers alike never cease to amaze me in their humility, scope and candor.

I’ve had many conversations have been dulling and awkward, yes, but generally speaking, people are as lovely and open about the art of conversation as you allow them to be. We seem to have forgotten this, of how to relate to each other through the most basic level of communication. With Facebook and MySpace routinely becoming the chosen mechanisms of saying, “Hello, and how are you?” it’s increasingly difficult to answer those questions honestly.

When you haven’t even seen a person in years, does it really mean anything to ask them those questions via the Internet? It might be nice to just check up on someone this way, but isn’t it a much more meaningful experience to actually meet up with them? If they tell you a story, would it feel the same if they wrote it in an e-mail? In our everyday lives the power of spoken word seems to have been diminished to an inconvenient, time-consuming activity. This, however, is not the feeling shared among those who are a part of the beautiful project of StoryCorps.

“StoryCorps is an independent nonprofit organization with the soul mission of capturing the essence of story telling, with hundreds and thousands of recorded conversations already archived in the American Folk-Life Center at the National Library of Congress.

Its sessions are frequently played on National Public Radio, and it’s one of the largest oral history recorders of our time. StoryCorps volunteers and employees work to encapsulate who we are as Americans and how we relate to ourselves, each other, and the rest of the world through conversation. Its mission is to “honor and celebrate one another’s lives through listening.

“StoryCorps hopes to create a kinder, more thoughtful and compassionate nation.” Having had its humble beginnings in 2003 with its first “StoryBooth” set up in Grand Central Station of New York, StoryCorps now has two mobile booths that travel regularly to cities all across America. People of all kinds of diversities have recorded their stories. Topics range from what it felt like to return home from Iraq, seeing a first grandchild born, going to the prom and coming out to family and friends for the first time. The importance of community, family and friends are common themes that are addressed in nearly all the recordings, and are relatable in some way or another.

They are but three to four minute retellings of a specific event in a person or persons’ lives, and every possible detail they can tell you about it. In just that you can get a great sense of the kind of people they are, and it’s amazing to listen to what their voices sound like with all their inflections, laughter and emotions.

It’s a novel idea anyone can easily be embrace, and StoryCorps is always looking for people to encapsulate the human spirit in the form of a voice recording.

StoryCorps has a National Day of Listening every year, asking all those who are interested to set aside some time to record and interview anyone, whether it’s a neighbor, friend, teacher or family member. This year it’s on Nov. 27, and you can find more details about it at

It never hurts to take the time to talk to someone and see how they are doing. I’m sure they wouldn’t mind if you asked to record the conversation, especially if they had something clever to say. Embrace the moments you have between people alike and unlike, and you’ll be surprised to find out what you can learn when you just sit back and listen.

Thisanjali Gangoda is a senior political science major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].