This week many of us will gather to share a meal of Thanksgiving. This is a perfect opportunity to share our stories and honor our elders.
There are all kinds of questions you could ask. It could be specific. It could be general. So where do you even start? Here are five ways to get the stories started.
Five Questions for Heart-Opening Stories this Thanksgiving:
- If you could only eat one dish on Thanksgiving Day what would it be?
- Tell me about a time when you helped someone who wasn’t expecting it.
- Tell me about a Thanksgiving Dinner where it seemed like everything went wrong.
- Describe a time when you felt on top of the world.
- What are you most grateful for this Thanksgiving?
Some storytellers will need a little extra nudge, so ask follow-up questions to help them along.
Five Helpful Follow-up Questions:
- Tell me more about that.
- Why is that important to you?
Speak up. Be brave and loving with your question (it shows that you care).
Listen. By sitting quietly and listening we show that we care. We honor that person with our attention.
Record it. Take it a step further and record your interview with a digital recorder. If you don’t have a recorder, Story Corps has an app to record stories on your smartphone -- check out The Great Listen for more info.
Got Quiet? If you’re going to record it, be sure to find a quiet place, or ask everyone at the dinner table to be respectful and quiet as everyone listens.
Write it Down. If recording isn't an option, jot down notes in a notebook as they talk. You could also ask your interviewee if they'd prefer to write their own stories down. They'll be glad you asked. Down the road, you’ll be glad you have these stories saved.
Just do it. The important thing is to start the conversation. Even if you don't have a recorder, Grandma isn't comfortable talking to your smartphone, or the only paper in the house is a paper towel, you can still ask for stories.
We all have stories. These questions are for anyone of any age. You can ask a grandparent, parent, child, grandchild, aunt, uncle, or friend. You can pick one relative to focus on, or go around the dinner table asking everyone one or two questions.
I’d like to leave you with the words of a poet:
May you be blessed with an abundance of beautiful stories this Thanksgiving.
With deep gratitude,