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 a memorable duty one military chaplain served during the coronavirus pandemic.
A New Kind of War
Army Major Ivan Arreguin had faced multiple deployments overseas, but this year he was dispatched to New York when it was under attack from a different kind of enemy: the novel coronavirus.
As COVID-19 cases spiked in April 2020, the chaplain arrived from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, to provide prayers and support to doctors, nurses and patients.
Despite all he saw, he said in an interview with his wife, Aileen, “I’m thankful that I was given that opportunity to serve my nation that way.”