Veteran StoryCorps superstar Louisa Scioscia Stephens (who has participated in almost 100 interviews) came to the Grand Central StoryBooth today with her student and friend, Aude Lloydna Onanga Ndiaye. Ms. Onanga spoke about her mother, Marie-Stephanie Inquiessi, an extraordinary woman who lives in Libreville, Gabon. Her mother grew up in the small town of Mimongo, a name Ms. Stephens described as sounding like the beautiful sound of “wind blowing through the trees.” When Ms. Inquiessi’s father died, she and her many siblings were left homeless and in dire poverty…
Ms. Inquiessi helped raise all of her siblings, and enroled as one of the first people in her country in the freshman class of Omar Bongo Omdidoa University, Gambon’s first college. She became a nurse, and has spent her life building houses, earning money, and using her talents to help her fellow Africans. Ms. Onanga was clearly in awe of her mother, and appreciated the experience of getting to speak about her to Ms. Stephens.
It is always a joy to facilitate an interview with Ms. Stephens. No one embodies the concept of “Listening as an Act of Love” more than she does. She sits down with her students, friends, family members, and strangers, and listens to each one as if they are the most important person in the world, and that there is nothing more important in the world than to listen to them right then. Her presence with people is nothing less than an incredible act of love. Watching her with her student Ms. Onanga was beautiful.
At the end of their interview, I asked French speaking Ms. Onanaga, who has a voice just as beautiful as her smile, to tell me how one would describe listening as an act of love au Francaise…and she told me, “Ãcouter est un acte d’amour.”