When I was thinking about this month's theme of writing and community, the first thing that came to mind was an experience my daughter had. Faith is a junior in college now and an English major. Her senior year of high school she had an English class where the teacher asked his students to think about what they envisioned themselves doing twenty years down the road. The class wrote about this and discussed it, but then the teacher mentioned that it was his experience that few people ended up actually doing what they anticipated doing at eighteen years old. Most of the students found this a bit of a surprise.
Faith took the question and went out into our town and began to interview local business owners opening the dialogue with, "Are you doing today what you thought you would be doing when you were eighteen?" She took these interviews and started a blog on our local online Patch, focusing on community members and their businesses. It was very interesting reading. To her delight, some days her column had more views and comments than anything else on the Patch. It was fun for the rest of us to learn that our town barber had once been in the Coast Guard and then followed his father's wishes and became an accountant even though he was bored to death. He really wanted to be a barber like his father, but it took him a while to convince his dad to let him. Or the ice cream shop owner who had worked in the pharmaceutical industry all his life and was almost thankful to be let go during the economic downturn so he finally had the push he needed to start his own business. Of course there was also the deli owner who started working for his family in the deli at eight years old and hasn't stopped since.
Faith found that the owners were almost all very happy to tell their stories. I think it was fun for them as well as good advertising. For locals like us, it was great to get to know the local business folks since these days there doesn't seem to be much time to stand around and chat. It's usually just pick up your dry cleaning and go! The experience has lead Faith to take a course on interviewing and to doing more interviews, particularly with residents of an assisted living facility near her college, where she is helping preserve their memories while sharing this history and perspective with her college-age peers.
Faith's experience reminded me once again of how many great stories there are right in our local communities if only we manage to take the time, ask, and listen a little.