Stories aren’t just meant to be shared around a campfire or while tucking children into bed. They often help define a time and place or illustrate a universal truth.
That’s why the U.S. Library of Congress’ American Folklife Center preserves sad stories, funny stories and even heart-wrenchingly serious stories. The collection of oral histories boasts stories from 650,000 participants and counting — the largest single collection of human voices in the world.
The project is the brainchild of radio producer Dave Isay, who in 2003 named it StoryCorps. (StoryCorps is an independent nonprofit organization funded by donations.)
At first, the stories were told by pairs of people interviewing each other in a recording booth in New York’s Grand Central Terminal. Today, the project has added sound booths in Atlanta and Chicago as well as mobile recordings. When the pandemic hit, StoryCorps added a platform for people to do interviews on their phones and computers, helping Americans tell stories during a time of social distancing.
“When we listen to the stories of other people, we can understand more about our shared humanity,” said Colleen Ross, managing director of StoryCorps. “Listening is an act of love and … increasingly, it is an act that is essential to building compassion and empathy for others.”
ShareAmerica is highlighting some of our favorite stories, including this one about what a son (eventually) learned from his father.
Muhammad Faridi worked his way through law school driving a cab. As a child he also had helped his father, who made a living as a livery cab driver, keep his taxi clean. But Muhammad carried embarrassment about the work until one day his boss helped him see his father more clearly.
In their StoryCorps interview, Muhammad and his father, Mohammad Ashraf Faridi, talk about their experiences. The father, who emigrated from Pakistan in the 1980s, initially experienced difficulties but says he has arrived at a happy place in his life.