Since Kindergarten, I have been visiting nursing homes with my grandmother to lead services for the Jewish holidays. The highlight of each visit was always talking to the residents and hearing anecdotes of their lives, which is why eight years later, when I was told of an opportunity to develop a project to benefit the community, the idea of sharing and preserving stories like the ones I had heard at the nursing homes immediately came to mind. The result: Stories Worth Saving.
Through Stories Worth Saving teens have the opportunity to interview seniors in the community, many of whom now live in nursing or assisted living homes. All of these people have captivating stories to share, from surviving the holocaust, to growing up in an orphanage. Each interview is recorded and uploaded to a website (storiesworthsaving.org) for public access.
Over the course the last year, I began developing Stories Worth Saving using a grant I received from the Rose Community Foundation’s Innovate for Good Program. The process taught me a myriad of lifelong skills, including budgeting, working with people, and time management. But above all else, Stories Worth Saving has given me the opportunity to meet incredible people and hear some of the most meaningful stories.
Michael Cousins was a gay paraplegic, who grew up with a love for music and fashion design, and eventually moved to Colorado with his husband, who later developed Alzheimers disease. After coming out as gay to his parents when he was young, Michael was kicked out of his own home due his parents’ disapproval. After hearing about the adversity he had endured throughout his life as a result of being gay, I was surprised by the happiness and optimism in Michael’s voice as he talked about the current life he had created for himself with his husband. Both Michael’s story and his attitude towards life were inspiring. Because Michael was estranged from his family after coming out as gay, and because his husband has Alzheimers, I knew that one of the primary ways Michael’s story would be remembered was through the video of the interview I conducted.
A few weeks after I interviewed Michael, I received an email from my contact at Michael’s assisted living home informing me that Michael has passed away unexpectedly. I was devastated to hear the news. However, I was somewhat comforted by knowing that because of Stories Worth Saving, Michael’s story would be heard and remembered by many. It was at that moment that I realized the importance of Stories Worth Saving. I hope to continue to preserve these impactful stories of members of our community and share them with many people so that others can appreciate and learn from heartening stories like Michael’s.
Additionally, I hope to continue to expand Stories Worth Saving by including more teens in the interview process. I want to encourage anyone interested in developing relationships with seniors in our community and preserving their stories and history, to get involved in this project. It is incredible to have had the opportunity to take an interest I developed at such a young age, and expand it into a project that benefits the entire community.