This Thanksgiving, children are being encouraged to listen to their elderly relatives — and to record what they have to say for posterity. “We want to remind people of how much they matter, and that the person who’s listening cares,” says Dave Isay, founder and president of StoryCorps, a non-profit which records stories from everyday life.
StoryCorp has partnered with a number of US school districts to launch The Great Thanksgiving Listen. Students can download the StoryCorps app for free on iOS or Android, which will provide interview prompts as well as record conversations. Students can use these intergenerational interviews as a means of gaining extra credit in their classes, and the content will be stored in the Library of Congress. “We have an ambitious goal for this project,” says Isay. “We want to double our archive in a weekend.”
According to Isay, Thanksgiving is the perfect time to sit down and share stories your elders, and find out things you never knew. His motivation for the Great Thanksgiving Listen is also a personal one. “It’s so easy to put this on the ‘someday’ list,” he says. “I interviewed my dad a bunch of years ago. He died very suddenly, and that was the night the rubber hit the road. That recording would be the way my kids got to know this man who was this towering figure in my life.”
These conversations may range from the mundane to the hellishly awkward, but Isay believes that each and every participant in the project will be glad in the long run. “Just do it,” he says. “There’s this unspoken recognition that this is about mortality. It’s about the things you want to say to someone. You won’t regret it.”