A Volunteer’s-Eye View
A guest post by Margaret Crandall, one of our amazing San Francisco StoryBooth volunteers. Good luck, Margaret, and thank you! Thursday afternoons just won’t be the same without you.
Last December I was laid off from my dot-com job. It was a blessing, really. A kick in the pants to do something more rewarding. I found that something in StoryCorps. I went to a wine-and-cheese StoryCorps event at San Francisco’s Contemporary Jewish Museum, and was so impressed by the project that at the end of the evening I cornered Sarah Geis and demanded to volunteer. I couldn’t think of a better way to spend my new-found free time.
Luckily Sarah needed someone to meet and greet StoryCorps visitors on Thursday afternoons to explain the project, answer questions, and chat with people waiting to use the booth. Some people already knew about StoryCorps from NPR. Others had never heard of StoryCorps, and approached my end of the hall with looks of interest or confusion. Others gazed at the wall of photos next to me, snapshots of people from all walks of life who had recorded their stories in the StoryBooth (my favorite is the one of the guy with the little white dog), and asked me if StoryCorps was open to non-Jews. “Absolutely!” I told them. Others, often senior citizens, bashfully told me they didn’t have any stories to tell. I’d laugh and tell them that of course they did. Everyone has a story.
As a “merch girl” for touring bands for many years, I knew all about sitting behind a table and talking to customers. But with StoryCorps, I was promoting a project, not a band. And while I couldn’t wave down a horn player and ask him to get me a beer, I got to work in a well-lit, smoke-free, low-decibel environment – and sleep in my own bed every night. More importantly, I got to talk to all kinds of people I wouldn’t have had a chance to meet otherwise, like the founder of the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival. And the newlywed couple who came to the StoryBooth directly from their City Hall wedding. And the elderly woman who told me about San Francisco during World War II, when she was dating several sailors at the same time (she said she wanted to “play the field”). And the Sudanese “Lost Boy,” who was all smiles and whose struggles I couldn’t even begin to imagine. On my way home from the museum, I’d think about all the people I’d met and marvel at the variety of their lives and experiences.
This week I start a full-time job, so I will no longer be able to take my post outside the StoryBooth on Thursday afternoons. Thank you, Sarah, Frank, Alex, Eloise, and all the people who came in to tell their stories. You were the highlights of my week and I’m going to miss working with you.
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