Monday, December 24, 2007

Listening is an Act of Love, Storycorps Project

Following onward with my personal interest in the life stories of ordinary people, last night I began the book, Listening is an Act of Love: A Celebration of American Life From the StoryCorps Project (edited and with an introduction by Dave Isay).

This book was culled from thousands of interviews from across the country done at various locations where StoryCorps makes available mobile recording booths and at static locations set up at New York City's Ground Zero and Grand Central Station.

So far I've only read the first story in the anthology, based upon an interview done by Adrienne Lea with her friend, Cynthia Rahn. The result is a heartwarming childhood memory shared with readers and listeners, from 48-year-old Cynthia's life, of how one small act of thoughtfulness on the part of her mother will resonate with her forever.

When Cynthia was in kindergarten, she was asked, as part of a class project, to bring in something to add to the classroom's farmyard scene. Her family was poor, and this was more difficult for her than her teacher may have realized. She put it out of her mind, played outside until dark, and only realized her mistake when it was seemingly too late. Upon telling her mother of her problem, she was told it was her fault for not taking the responsibility to bring up the issue earlier. When it seemed all hope was lost, this little girl awakened, after her mother had already left in the early hours for work, to find a magnificent piece of origami made from simple notebook paper, left on the kitchen table, and formed into the shape of a barn.

To this day, Cynthia still marvels at that inexpensive though sentimentally priceless item, a show of her mother's quiet but boundless love. She said she has no idea how her mother put that intricate piece together, since, to her knowledge, her mother had no experience with origami. It remains a mystery.

Cynthia says she went into the classroom where others brought store-bought plastic farm animals and other implements, and she felt like a queen. The usually shy, insecure girl had a magical conversation piece to buoy her confidence that day, all because a tired, overworked mom saw the value in taking a few extra moments to do something special.

Reading this story brings back to me my own belief that the smallest gestures can have a profound effect on others, when freely given to family members, friends and even strangers. I believe even a smile or a thank you given meaningfully, and with eye contact, or lending a quick hand to someone in need, may mean more to them than we could ever know. What we do for another may even rub off on others, as the kindnesses we share with individuals get passed on and on into eternity - small acts that multiply, building mountains.

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