Everyone, even you, have a story

Published 10:01pm Thursday, September 12, 2013

By Jay Sowers

The Selma Times-Journal

Maurice Gandy is someone who sees the underestimated importance of stories.

Gandy is a member of the Alabama Humanities Foundation’s Road Scholars Speakers Bureau. The AHF is a nonprofit organization that promotes literature, history law, philosophy and the arts across Alabama through the humanities.

Next Wednesday, Sept. 18, Gandy will present “Famous Lost Words: Recording and Preserving Oral History” at the Selma-Dallas County Public Library at 4 p.m. during an event which is hosted by the Ossian Club and ArtsRevive.

Gandy will discuss the significance of oral history — literally, why we should talk to others about their life experiences — and how to get the most out of those oral history interviews.

The purpose of Wednesday’s presentation will be to remind people of the importance of story.

Not one story in particular, but story itself.

Here are the main reasons I got into the business of storytelling: we will never run out of stories, and no two stories are the same.

Stories are a renewable resource that will never run out, and in a city like Selma — a city steeped in a rich and textured history — stories are the greatest tie to the past, and the greatest lessons for the future.

Some will say, “Not me, I don’t have a story. I haven’t done anything.”

With all due respect, no. You are wrong. You have lived.

Even if you have lived in the same house on the same street watching the same sun set behind the same tree, you have lived.

I have a story, you have a story, and the guy in line behind you at the grocery store has a story.

When I was in eighth grade, my oldest sister sat our grandfather down, hit record on our dad’s old tape recorder, and the two talked.

That’s it.

At the age I was, I initially thought this was weird and there was no point in doing this.

How wrong I was.

All these years later, my dad will still listen to bits of that tape to hear the voice, the laugh, and the stories he heard so many times before.

This week I lost my other grandfather. It wasn’t unexpected, but my regret is that I never recorded him telling his stories just one more time.

My mom’s dad — who passed this week — was full of stories; stories of love, business and war.

But the stories we’ll remember — some of which cannot be printed on these pages, as I enjoy having a job — are life’s stories.

They are stories of his time with his father, his years in school and so many stories about working hard all day long, and coming home to work with his wife as they raised six children.

I will miss the man, certainly.

And even though I didn’t get a chance to record him over his last months and years, I am thrilled to help his stories live on.

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