How to share your story on the National Day of Listening

Nov 22, 2017

The day after Thanksgiving is known as Black Friday in the retail world, but it’s also been referred to as the National Day of Listening, a day of observance when Americans are encouraged to set aside time to record the stories of family, and friends.

The Central New York Community Foundation has been promoting the National Day of Listening ever since it brought StoryCorps to Syracuse several years ago, preserving the stories of some central New Yorkers, like community activist Chuckie Holstien, memorializing her family’s flight from czarist Russia.

"My father’s village, the shtetl where my father lived, was burned down by the czar. And early on, my parents instilled in us that we were lucky to be born in a free country," said Holstein.

It starts simply, with finding the time to sit down and talk with family members, neighbors, or friends. Jennifer Owens, senior vice president and chief development officer with the Central New York Community Foundation, says that’s why it’s important to set aside that time to talk.

“Sometimes with the hustle and bustle of the holidays, we don’t take the time to have meaningful conversations, because we’re so busy. This gives you a chance to focus in,” said Owens.

So what do you say? How do you start? Owens makes it easy, with a list of seven tips for sharing your story, either by writing it down, are drawing it out verbally. The tips include some specific questions.

“One suggestion would be to ask questions like, ‘what’s a time you may have overcome adversity in life?’ Or ‘what’s something you had to learn the hard way?’, just to get the conversation going,” Owens said. “Those are the types of stories families sometimes think are better left untold, and that’s not the case.”

Other tips include don’t worry what others think, and be diligent if you are capturing memories digitally. You’d think in a world with Facebook and Instagram, our life story would be more available than ever.  But Owens says that’s not the case.

“This lets us go beyond what social media can do. People might know more about us, about what happens in our daily lives, but they might not know what we think about these great questions.”