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The Great Listen

Last night, I held a pop-up book club at a local brewery to sip tasty brews and, I suppose more importantly, talk about Without a Trace. One of the women told me that she had read the book in two days and that she noticed that, throughout the book, I seemed to transform. "Your writing changed -- you changed," she said.

And my husband chimed in to say that he agreed. "It really was like an assignment to you at first. This was an interesting story and you needed to tell it. But then it became so much more -- Sierra Phantom became so much more -- to you. And I think you began to wonder what other untold stories were out there."

"You know, now that you mention it, I think you're right," I said.

I have become more open to people's stories -- more curious, more nosy. I discovered that a quirky, old fisherman who loitered at a little bakery had a gem of a life story that could have so easily been lost. I've thought many times in the past few years, what untold stories are around me, just waiting to be shared... if only I'd ask?

That same woman at last night's book club, who is my mother's age, said that she felt grateful that I came around to this idea at an age young enough to have decades ahead of me to act on it. So, here we go. Let's put this nudge into action -- again. And I want you to join me.

Here's the challenge: Over the next six weeks, as you gather with family and friends around turkey dinners and Christmas trees, interview an older person in your life. Ask your grandmother about a favorite memory or one of the dumbest things she's ever done. Ask your grandfather about his grandfather or about his earliest memory. Ask your great aunt what she wants to be remembered for.

StoryCorps, in partnership with NPR, has an app that allows you to record the interview and either keep it for yourself or share it with them, so it can be archived in the Library of Congress and have a chance of being featured on NPR. The app also offers suggested questions to ask your interviewee. [Download the app here.]

By the end of the year, I'm going to interview my grandmother Marjorie Borom and Aaron's grandparents, Sandy and Lois Heisler. Already, I've lost two grandparents and a father who I wish I would have taken the time to have a meaningful conversation with and hit record. So I'm not putting this off. As I was reminded last night, my New Year's Resolution that I made 11 and a half months ago was to say yes to more opportunities. So here we are. Say yes with me.

As StoryCorps put it, "We can find wisdom and poetry all around us. All we have to do is listen."

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