By StoryCorps, author of Listening Is an Act of Love
Cable television and supermarket glossies bombard you with the same kinds of stories—partying heiresses, movie stars in rehab, and the wronged wives of politicians. Most of us can recite who is divorcing whom in Hollywood without the slightest effort. That's just how ubiquitous these stories have become.
But author and award-winning radio producer Dave Isay believes there are more important stories to tell. In 2003, Isay created StoryCorps to record intimate interviews between loved ones and friends. Over the years, the organization has collected and preserved tens of thousands of American stories; memories full of heart and rich with humanity, covering everything from the Great Depression to the war in Iraq. In 2007, StoryCorps published 50 of their favorite stories in the New York Times best-seller Listening Is an Act of Love. We'll let them take it from here:
Just one week after Listening Is an Act of Love was released in paperback, Barack Obama was elected President. One story from the book reminds us just how much things have changed in our nation's capital.
Sam Harmon came to StoryCorps with his grandson Ezra Awumey, then 11 years old and a precocious grade school student in the DC area. The boy asked his granddad some tough questions, including this one: "What was the saddest moment in your life?" Sam didn't hesitate to answer.
It was when he was serving in the Navy during World War II. On a day off, he drove into Washington from Norfolk, Virginia, where he was stationed. His shipmates were headed for the bars; Sam walked around sightseeing, visiting all the monuments. Before driving his shipmates back to the base, he decided to relax a little by going to the movies.
"There was a glass with the ticket seller behind it, and off of the glass reflected the Capitol dome. And I just thought to myself, "˜What a way to end a day—drinking in all this democracy.' I called for the ticket. She was reading. She punched the machine. I reached my hand to get the ticket and lay down the money. She pulled it back. And she said, "˜You can't come in here.' She saw my black hand and refused to sell me the ticket. The Capitol dome was superimposed on her angry face—angered that I would have the temerity to ask to buy a ticket. And I just walked the streets crying all night, betrayed that my country could force me to fight a war but say, "˜You're not a good enough citizen to come to a movie.' "¦ The saddest moment—without any exception."
You can listen to Sam tell his full story here.
Want more stories? Click here to pick up a copy of Listening Is an Act of Love today. (It makes a great gift!) And to hear additional StoryCorps stories, visit their website or tune in to NPR's Morning Edition on Fridays.