The Great Thanksgiving Listen

Thanksgiving is going to be different this year. In the midst of a spreading pandemic, many of us will be missing holiday traditions and large family gatherings to stay safely at home. As we do, we’ll be trying to figure out how we can connect virtually and—if we are creative—perhaps invent new and valuable traditions. If you’d like some help with that, consider Story Corps’ The Great Thanksgiving Listen. The Thanksgiving Listen started in 2015, but it may be more valuable now than ever.

Few things connect us more than stories, and family stories can have a special place in our hearts and our identities. Some stories we hear frequently. One friend has a family story about hiking a mountain in terrible rain to rescue stranded strangers. The children in that story have children of their own now. The story has been told and retold until it has the status of family legend. And when family members face tough times, they can hold tight to a heritage of courage and unselfishness.

Some stories are harder to gather. What I know of my maternal grandmother’s life fills me with admiration. I remember when she, well into her eighties, told me, “I just wake up every morning and think, ‘Who might need my help today?’” On tired mornings, she inspires me. But it was very hard to get her to talk about her difficult early life. The one day I did, resulted in a recording that we treasure many years later.  

This Thanksgiving, perhaps it is time to gather some of your family stories, either in person or from a distance. You might want to contribute them to the global StoryCorps collection, or perhaps you’ll want them just for your family. Either way, The Great Thanksgiving Listen has hints and tools for recording stories you will treasure for years to come. You could collect stories of early family history, or the story of this crazy 2020. Either way, a year from now, I’ll bet you’ll be glad you did.

If you want to add your interview to the database in the Library of Congress, here’s how to do it.  Enjoy your loved ones, near and far, and have a wonderful Thanksgiving. In this year-unlike-all-others, it is good to stop and be grateful.

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