08:42 AM

Oral History: The Easiest, Most Rewarding Way to Finish a Life Story

By Rachel J. Trotter


There is true power in oral history. Recently I sat with a client as we worked on writing his life story. I asked a simple question about the example his parents set for him. As he started to talk, he became emotional relaying an experience with his deceased parents. I reached out and pressed “record” on my digital recorder that was sitting between the two of us. As he shared a particularly tender story, tears streamed down his cheeks and the emotion was captured in his voice on the recorder. I felt the connection between him and his parents as he talked about they way they did things together and their example of service to him when he was a teenager.

The mood he conveyed as he talked is hard to convey in written word, but now it will be recorded for generations to come to listen to and to learn from. That, my friends, is why oral history is priceless for both the sharer and the listener. Later that day as I prepared to leave I grabbed my recorder. He chuckled as he noticed me tucking it away. “I forgot you turned that on,” he said with a light laugh. “It was good stuff, I had to record it,” was my quick reply. “I’m glad you did,” he said with a smile. Me too, I thought. The magic of oral history is alive and well in this day and age of immediate gratification and the video craze.

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Sandy Lawrence
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