Listening is an Act of Love is an inspirational read. The compilation includes stories from grandparents, friends, and of course...survivors. The project consists of “booths” being set up in major U.S. cities. The most common being New York. The booths are recording studios that allow random people to make an appointment and interview each other. The interviews are recorded and burned to discs. One disc goes home with the participants, one goes into a library meant to preserve oral history.
Written in a dramatic form, Listening is an Act of Love is easy to follow. The book is divided into five sections: Home and Family, Work & Dedication, Journeys, History & Struggle, and Fire & Water.
Home & Family
Memories from every end of the spectrum, the sad and the uplifting declarations of love and of appreciation. The most heart warming narrations of this section are the story of elderly matriarchs. Grandfathers told grandchildren how they met their grandmothers. Grandchildren thanked their grandparents for taking them in after traumatic circumstances. Family is such a broad word. Family is a bond, not blood, a symbol of acceptance.
Work & Dedication
The most important lesson a parent can teach their children is the value of work. Ronald Ruiz, a New York bus driver, brings the reader to tears with his story of an elegant, but confused woman searching for her friends and their luncheon date. Friends are told about going to work with their parents, and the realization of how much their parents did for them. And finally chaplain Janet Luntz discusses the unsung heroes of a hospital. This section offers a glimpse of the American work ethic.
This section focuses on the things that make us who we are. Two inmates from the Oregon Penitentiary compared missteps that lead to prison. Their story ends with a chilling post script. The eeriness of a child predicting their own death, and the ugliness of cancer are showcased in this section.
History & Struggle
Events that shaped our culture and our history. The Vietnam War, The Holocaust, The AIDS epidemic, and the Civil Rights movement. All events that grabbed hold of people and shook them violently. Taylor and Bessie Rogers of Memphis, Tennessee recall attending Martin Luther King's “I have a Dream” speech the day before he was killed. Mary Caplan tells her friend how she cared for her AIDS stricken brother at a time when the disease was considered a plague. And Manny Diaz Jr. described life in East Harlem during the Great Depression. A reminder that History is made by people, not the circumstances.
Fire & Water
Any book that claims to be about the human struggle has to feature stories of survival. 9/11 and Katrina take center stage in this section. Joseph Dittmar described his day in the World Trade Center on the infamous date. He holds nothing back with the gore and the hysteria. As witness to the second American disaster, Rufus Burkhalter and Bobby Brown explain their role in a New Orleans pumping station during Hurricane Katrina. With so much focus on the devastation of the events, it's easy to forget that real people were involved. Story Corps helps keep that in perspective.
Dave Isay himself breaks in from time to time and shares the impact the project has had on families and others who have sat at the mike and shared their memories with a loved one, or a project facilitator. Questions asked include: What is the happiest moment of your life? The saddest? Who is the most important person in your life? Who has been the biggest influence on your life? What lessons did that person teach you? Etc.
America is a patchwork, held together by ideals and action. StoryCorps is an organization interested in showcasing the people who make up this patchwork. Listening is an Act of Love is StoryCorps' contribution to the process of putting a human face on issues that affect our society. Sentimental? Yes, but very much needed in this disconnected culture. Recommended.