Why ‘StoryCorps’ Makes You Feel All the Feelings

A StoryCorps recording session

I was getting ready for work when I heard my first StoryCorps story on the radio. Carrie Conley’s voice filled the room and warmed my heart.

Ms. Conley, 80, chatted with her son Jerry Johnson about her experience raising six children as a single mother in the 1960s. “You know, my whole heart was my kids. And the Lord blessed all of them. And I’m so grateful,” she said.

And that’s when it happened. I began to cry. And I anticipated the story that each Friday would bring. StoryCorps offers a glimpse into other people’s lives and reminds us of a shared humanity. It homes in on the relationship between two people. It is intimate. It is honest. And yes, sometimes, you cry.

“I just wait for the clock to run down so I know when to talk at the end because otherwise I know I’m going to lose it if I listen to that story,” said Morning Edition host Steve Inskeep. In an NPR interview he admitted turning down the volume in studio during some of the segments.

StoryCorps trailer
StoryCorps trailers travel around the country, while story booths are located in New York, Atlanta, and San Francisco.
Photo courtesy of StoryCorps

Created in 2003, StoryCorps facilitates and records interviews with ordinary people. From its mobile stations and story booths across the country, StoryCorps has recorded  more than 50,000 interviews from more than 80,000 participants. Each interview, which lasts around 40 minutes, is then archived at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. Some of the interviews are edited down to a three-minute segment, which is uploaded to the StoryCorps website and aired each Friday on NPR’s Morning Edition.

So on that Friday morning, amid news reports of war casualties and year-end lists, a simple story about a mother hit close to home. It stirred up the love and appreciation that I had for the women in my life. Like Ms. Conley, my grandmother was a single mother who raised her children with limited means, albeit in Haiti. My mother raised me and my two siblings on her own, after our father abandoned us. What hardships had they endured? What sacrifices did they have to make for their children?

And When Jerry Johnson tells his mother how much he loves and appreciates her, it makes me want to pick up the phone and call my mom. That’s the beauty of StoryCorps. It reminds us of what is important: the human connection.

StoryCorps interview
StoryCorps has recorded more than 50,000 interviews in 10 years.
Photo courtesy of StoryCorps

At the end of one’s days, it really doesn’t matter how many Twitter followers you have, how many deals you closed, how awesome your clothes and cars were, or how much extra time you spent at the office. It’s those one-on-one, human connections that are a true measure of your life, the relationships that you cultivated and tended to with care. Were you kind? Did you say all that you could to the people who matter?

StoryCorps reminds us that everybody has stories.  What’s more, you don’t have to be in a booth with a facilitator to start the conversation. You can start those conversations now.

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