Accessibility links

National Day of Listening Encourages Americans to Share Their Life Stories


The day after Thanksgiving marked the first annual .)

Bob: The diagnosis…

Jo Ann: … is not pretty, I know.

Bob: Do you feel sorry for yourself today?

Jo Ann: A little bit, a little bit. A big bit! I'm sad.

Bob: What are the things that make you sad?

Jo Ann: Just not having control over everything, my thoughts and my actions. I don't think it's fair to you either.

Bob: You know I want to take care of you, don't you?

Jo Ann: I do know that. But you could have some cute little chick you could be running around with 10 years younger.

Bob:
I have my princess with me right now.

Jo Ann: Oh, you're wonderful… but I don't want to be an ugly lady that's out of her head.

Bob: You'll never be an ugly lady, sweetie. You know, I love you more than ever

Jo Ann: I know.

StoryCorps interviews have been conducted in cities and rural hamlets in every state and by Americans in every socio-economic group. Many immigrants have come to tell their tales. In this interview excerpt, Korea-born Hee-Sook Lee explains to her adult daughter Ang how the physical affection she once witnessed between a husband and wife missionary team back home in Korea inspired her to break through her own cultural conditioning once she came to America. (.)

Hee-Sook: … When I got married, I decided I want to be happy sweet couple like my missionary friends. Of course, when I get married to a difficult Korean man, when I say, "Honey, I love you' [he was being a] typical Korean man just sitting in the living room reading [his] newspaper [and] didn't respond. I said, 'I love you!' and he said, 'Okay.' And I wasn't satisfied with that answer. [LAUGHS] So I said, 'I love you!' He said, 'Me too.' I said, 'Can't you say 'I love you, too?'' At first he said, 'It's very hard.' He was not used to expressing [his feelings]. I said 'I love you' until he responded 'Honey, I love you, too.' And then [with] ongoing practice, and later on it wasn't hard. He said, 'I love you, too,' and then hug and even kiss on my check. [It was a] very sweet expression of love, appreciation. [We have a] happy, happy family which … you approve [of] right?

Ang: I love it!

Some StoryCorps interviews feature reunited families. As an unmarried 17-year-old girl, Mary Lou Maher gave up her son Brad Skow at birth. Two decades later, he tracked her down, and they became extremely close. (.)

Brad: So I have one question, and it's the big one you've been waiting for.

Mary Lou: Ok.

Brad: You now know what the consequences of giving me up were. Knowing what you know now, would you do it again?

Mary Lou: Well, of course, knowing what I know now I wouldn't do it again. I remember I used to talk to you a lot when I was pregnant and explain the whole situation, why I had to do this, that I wasn't ready to be a mother, that I didn't have a father to raise you with. I was very sure of myself. I remember that. But now I wouldn't even think about it because the separation and the loss is just way too hard! I missed 20 years!

StoryCorps participants often talk about the lasting personal impact of historical events. World War II veteran Joseph Robertson once shot a young German soldier at very close range after he saw him seem to reach for his gun.

"… But this young man, he was a blonde, blue, yes, fair skin, so handsome. He was like a little angel. But I still had to shoot him. And it didn't bother me the first night because I went to sleep. I was so tired. But the second night, I woke up crying because that kid was there. [cries] And, to this day, I wake up many nights crying over this kid. I still see him in my dreams..."

Richard Pecorella remembers his fiancée, Karen Sue Juday, who died in the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. Juday was working as a secretary on the 101st floor of the World Trade Center in New York when the first plane hit. (.)

Richard: I miss her eyes. Her eyes sparkled to me. One day they were blue. The next day they were green, depending on how the light hit them. [To her] Karen, I will always be in love with you, and I will see you again. I'll do enough good to make it up there."

According to StoryCorps and National Day of Listening founder Dave Isay, it is the experiences of Pecorella and countless other Americans like him that, when shared, make up the true American story, not the stereotypes often seen on cable television news and other mass media.

"We're not a nation of greedy billionaires or Internet sex predators," says Isay. "We're a nation of people who love our families and live lives with small acts of courage and kindness and heroism. And when you hear people talking about their lives and the people in their lives who have transcended [difficulties and] who are living life to its fullest, you're kind of walking on holy ground."

Isay says one does not need a StoryCorps booth or fancy equipment to walk that holy ground with someone. All that's required is some recording device - preferably with a microphone and a pair of headphones - a quiet place, two open ears and a willing heart. (StoryCorps Day of Listening Do-It-Yourself Guide)

XS
SM
MD
LG