Stories Matter - Even If You Think They Don't
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National Mall from the Lincoln Memorial

For three weeks in September, I attended a memoir writing class with a group of women at a retirement community. I attended this class to introduce this group of people to My notion was that as soon as people who have lived long enough and like to write, find out about Story Chip, they would be flocking to the site, eagerly pouring out a lifetime’s worth of stories. I believed that I was offering my fellow classmates and their friends, relatives and fellow residents, a great opportunity to share the great wealth of their experiences. I was wrong.

I was not wrong about offering them a great opportunity to share the great wealth of their experiences. At Story Chip, history is told from the original stories of the people who experienced it. It is a website where anyone can post a story. Their story will not be edited, and we do not pick and choose from the submissions – they are all posted. Each little piece of history is important. Each of us participates in history in our own small way and each of us has a lifetime’s worth of stories to tell.

However, what I found was that even those who have lived a long time and like to write, are still hesitant to share their stories on the web. I have found that most people don’t think they have stories to tell, or that they don’t know how to tell stories or that they think they don’t know how to write or that their lives have been ordinary and so they have nothing interesting to tell. I know, and, as was proven in our memoir class, that nothing could be farther from the truth. And yet, at the end of the class, when the writers were asked if they would like to post something to the site, I received the deer caught in the headlights look I so often get when I tell someone that a great story they have just told me, in casual conversation, would be a great addition to Story Chip.

When the class began, the participants, all of whom, for whatever reason, were women, were beginning writers who had stories in their hearts. Most of the participants began somewhat cautiously. Writing memoir can get into sticky and sensitive territory and we agreed not to discuss the details of each other’s writing outside of the classroom. Even though our writing began cautiously, personalities emerged and as more of each writer’s stories were told, the personality of the writer was rebuilt in a reverse motion. We could begin to see, beyond one woman’s sunny exterior into a story of considerable strife in adult life and why another woman was guarded and spare in demeanor and wrote with stark and sharp clarity. The writing of each woman so beautifully orchestrated their brief presence in the class and the short glimpses of memoir presented short bars of what certainly were full orchestral works. There was not a boring, conventional or uneventful life in the group. They may not have lived in exotic locations or with glamour, intrigue, or been party to important bits of history. However, having lived so many years, they had simply experienced our history and their stories are crucial for understanding what life was like. Their stories tell our story. This was a rich and full storyteller’s paradise and still, they were hesitant to commit to Story Chip.

Perhaps it is the notion that the internet is so public, that people all over the world could have access to their stories that brings us caution. And yet, that is precisely the reason for the stories and precisely why these stories need to be written down, not necessarily as literature but as documentation of our history. We certainly have reasons to maintain privacy about our personal lives, but in helping to tell our history, with the internet, specifically with Story Chip, for the first time in history, the very first time in history, we have the opportunity to tell our story, not as erudite historians are able to glean from the accounts of only a small handful of people, but from all of us. All of us can help to tell our collective story. The more people who have experienced a place or event or time who tell their stories, the more complete the description will be.

Imagine for a minute that the history of the 1960’s were to be told only by your parents. Imagine their version of the 60’s and that version of the 60’s becoming the official version of that complex and controversial time. Now imagine that history also being told by you as a teenager during the 60’s. Already, we have a much richer story. Now, imagine, millions of parents telling their versions of the 60’s and millions of their children writing their versions of the 60’s. This is what Story Chip offers the world - millions of stories from all ages and all events – millions of experiences and millions of points of view. That would certainly be the most accurate and comprehensive presentation of the 1960’s ever compiled. This is our opportunity with Story Chip.

There is not a single human who has experienced life as you did. No one other person saw exactly what you saw or saw it with the same point of view as you. Take away one person’s voice, one person’s story and the story is not complete. Imagine a Van Gogh painting with brush strokes missing or a symphony missing notes. Your stories matter, they help to complete the pictures, the music of our lives.

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