As part of its 200th anniversary of preserving and chronicling the commonwealth’s storied history, the Library of Virginia (LVA) is partnering with One Small Step (OSS) Richmond to expand its archive of local stories.
During the first week of October, the Library recorded over 25 in-person OSS conversations with Richmonders on either ends of the political spectrum. Throughout the week, participants sat down inside the Library’s intimate meeting room, guided by a facilitator, to have a discussion. We sat down with Sandra Treadway, Librarian at the Library of Virginia, to learn more about the partnership and what it means for Richmond.
When StoryCorps’ OSS team first reached out to the Library, Treadway said the organization’s 200th anniversary and vast network of engaged fans made it a natural alliance.
“Here was an opportunity to tie in a program—telling stories and making connections—that just fit perfectly with our anniversary year,” Treadway said. “I guess you could say that all the stars aligned and it’s just the right thing for us to do.”
During a time of rigid polarization and deep echo chambers, finding ways for people with different political beliefs and backgrounds to connect is difficult. But Treadway believes OSS helps reduce the friction.
“It’s human nature sometimes to learn one fact or one aspect of a person’s life, and we tend to then assume lots of other things. Well, if they believe that, or if they say this, then they must be bing, bing, bing,” Treadway explains. “And my experience is, that isn’t the case with most human beings. We’re much more complex and nuanced than that. And this is an opportunity for individual people to discover that for themselves, just in a one-on-one conversation.”
While Treadway didn’t get to sit in on the OSS conversations herself, she shared that her staff was impressed with how many people put their differences aside to lay the foundation for a meaningful relationship to blossom, a move that left participants encouraged to take a second small step with their conversation partner.
Stories often serve as a shortcut to human connection and OSS provides the tools for people to have a supportive space to meet someone new.
“I think we have so much more in common than we recognize. When you tell a story—whether it’s about what you believe …, a relationship you had that changed the direction of your life and helped you grow—I think as you describe that, and share that with another person, there’s a very good chance, they may have had a similar experience,” Treadway added.
Once people muster the courage to talk to someone new and get to know them as a human being, Treadway believes the odds are in their favor that they will have a connection, even if their perspective is different than their conversation partner.
She says these conversations are important for our country and adds, “I think the more we can recognize that, in the long term, the better off we will be.”
Maybe you’ve already participated in OSS or are waiting eagerly for your pairing with a conversation partner. There’s more to be done in our local community, and you don’t have to wait.
“Reach out and participate in an experience that may be a little bit out of your comfort zone,” Treadway said. “Maybe go and hear a speaker at a local organization, talk about a topic that you may think, ‘oh, no, I’m a little uncomfortable about that. But let me go and learn something.’ And then, go up afterwards and talk to the speaker and have an interaction or talk to somebody who’s sitting in the audience next to you. Start those kinds of conversations.”
With election season upon us, taking lots of small steps can help keep us all connect.