Thursday, April 24, 2014

Oh the Humanity

It's odd that we as a species became dominant in this world.  We're not very strong, nor terribly fleet, we don't have a nice thick pelt and our young are completely dependent for several years and don't even reach sexual maturation for a dozen years or more.  Apart from our physical shortcomings, we can be perfectly horrible.  If we only listened to the news or read the headlines, we could reasonably assume that we are collectively as nasty as a pit of vipers and the sooner this old world shakes us off, the better.

But then there is StoryCorps. Created by Dave Isay in 2003, StoryCorps puts two people, usually family or friends, but sometimes a StoryCorps facilitator, in a sound booth for forty minutes to discuss whatever they like.  The results are then permanently stored at The Smithsonian as part of our nation's on-going oral history project and some of these abbreviated interviews are broadcast on NPR stations.

I've been a huge fan of StoryCorps from the beginning, but this week I read Isay's book, Listening is an Act of Love about this wonderful project.  Alan Lomax wrote in 1940 that "the essence of America lies not in the headlined heroes....but in the everyday folks who live and die unknown, yet leave their dreams as legacies".  Almost seventy-five years later, these words are still so true.

The beauty and glory of ordinary people doing extraordinary things is reflected in the story of the firefighters running to what would surely be their death on 911.  This beauty is vividly told by the hospital chaplain who annually goes through her hospital and blesses the hands of every single member of staff.  The stories of growing up and living through the Great Depression made me grateful for how hard my parents and grandparents worked to ease my way in the world.  An interview with a generous man and a panhandler he helped to sobriety made me marvel at his bravery.  Imagine if you will, taking a falling down drunk to your family home.  I wouldn't do it, but it made so happy that I live in a world with people who are so much kinder and trusting than I could ever be.

We may be flawed, weak and naked, but we are human and we are capable of wonderful things.