Every Thanksgiving Day I recall, with regret, past family gatherings and squandered opportunities to learn more about the past lives of my relatives. As the recently-deceased Studs Terkel proved to us many times over, everyone has a story, and you never know which one will prove meaningful to you.
The not-for-profit group StoryCorps encourages you to take advantage of Thanksgiving get-togethers to listen, really listen, to your elders as they share the stories of their lives. By proclaiming Thanksgiving as The National Day of Listening, StoryCorps extends its mission, to gather and record the stories of as wide a swath of Americans as possible, to the most granular level, your dining room.
For interviews it gathers itself, the organization has two studios, in New York and San Francisco, and a MobileBooth, a studio in a travel trailer. Interviews can also be conducted by phone. Since 2003, over 35,000 people have documented their stories. A facilitator from StoryCorps guides the interview, but the interviewee is encouraged to focus on stories that most resonate with her/him. The interviews are recorded, and a copy of each is forwarded to the archive of the Library of Congress.
The National Day of Listening is your opportunity to explore the experiences of your loved ones that shaped you, your family, and your society. Recording the stories of your loved one can provide a long-lasting record for those who don't share the opportunity to hear them first-hand.
For suggestions on how to conduct an interview, check out StoryCorps' Do-It-Yourself Guide. And don't wait; time is not your friend.