Monday, November 10, 2008
Listening to Studs Terkel And Thinking About Hope
Ever since the early 90s I've enjoyed lying awake at night listening to people talk on the radio. Before his CNN gig, Larry King's late night radio talk show would play on my bedside stereo night after night. The show's "Open Phone America" segment was my favorite segment. As I recall, King would take each call asking the person on the other line, "Where are you calling from and why are you up?" For me, the folks who were up during those post-midnight hours were always pretty interesting. Unlike today's sports and political talk shows, folks weren't required to "have a take." It was very conversational, relatively anonymous, and somewhat confessional.
Tonight, I awoke from a nap to hear Studs Terkel's voice speaking on my iPod. The podcast version of NPR's This American Life was playing. Listening to him interview someone who lived through the Great Depression, I appreciated the dignity of his interviewee's voice, being allowed—invited—to tell her story of financial hardship and personal growth, from absolutely knowing she was better than people of color (who were doing exactly the same work as she) to simply knowing better. Hearing her speak of her moral transformation gives me hope for those who think and speak the way that she used to. I want to share details from her story here but they are better heard in her words. The link is here.
Times are getting tougher and unhealthy feelings of hate and bigotry seem to be more vocal these days. I'm hearing racist comments from people who precede their statements with, "I'm not a racist, but..." I don't know. Some people won't change, but then again some do. Life can be exhausting, trying to figure this stuff out. The woman in the Studs Terkel interview found her enlightenment. How many others will? We have a new president but we're still a long way from healed.
I just hope that we can listen to and care about each others' stories. Love thy neighbor. Hope and pray for those with hate in their hearts. We move on. Meanwhile, I appreciate those quiet moments where I can listen to people talk about things like dignity and humility, personal growth and lessons learned. We've all got a voice to contribute. And thanks to people like Studs Terkel, some of our voices will always be there for the education and interest of others. May he rest in peace.