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To Listen Is to Love


By Marirose Lescher

In October 2003, former journalist David Isay launched StoryCorps, a project built on a few basic ideas: That the ordinary stories of everyday people are as interesting and important as celebrity stories; that if we listen to these stories we will find “wisdom, wonder, and poetry” in the lives of people all around us; that we all want to know our lives have mattered; and that listening is an act of love. StoryCorps initially set up a booth in Grand Central Station to record life stories, and later in 2005, added two mobile recording units. One of the facilitators of a mobile unit reported that people were so eager to tell their stories that one morning, as she was inside the unit preparing for work, she overheard a man telling his story to the closed door.

Isay published some of the stories gathered by StoryCorps in a book titled Listening as an Act of Love, and other stories are also published on StoryCorps’ website, Facebook and by NPR. All of these stories make real the claim that the ordinary stories of everyday people are rich and compelling and transformative; the way into the stories is through listening. Of course, Isay is not talking about the tired and unhelpful stories that too often run like a tape in our minds; rather, he is talking about the stories of suffering and resurrection, compassion and passion that also permeate our lives. After reading Isay’s book, I have a new understanding of what it means to work in a steel plant and how family tradition, shared camaraderie, and the fiery beauty of the steel-making process can together translate into a passion. I better understand the lives of some prisoners, who despite myriad serious mistakes, share the everyday concerns of many people about the wellbeing of children and spouses, the desire to be engaged and free from addictions.

Listening is an act of love in that it gives those listened to a meaningful voice. Yet, listening is also an act of love for us—listening to the experiences of others allows us to participate in a web of life that marks the interrelationship of all life. We are shown what is possible for our own lives as we also develop empathy for other lives. Finally, we may begin to see that to make a difference for ourselves and others is a life in service to life. The spiritual teacher Eckart Tolle suggests that the important question in life is not “what do I want from life?” but “what does life want from me?”

The What’s Your Story project here in San Miguel de Allende seeks to inspire, empower, and transform individuals, families, and communities by using the wisdom of our life stories to connect us with ourselves and one another. We encourage you to tell your story to claim your voice and create the ending you desire, and we encourage you to listen to the stories of others to deepen your understanding and illuminate your place in the family of all things. For more information, visit


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