When someone gets involved with Storied Lives, either as a participant or supporter, they are always surprised to hear that this program was born just a few short years ago (in April 2012). I suppose that’s a compliment and a testament to the wonderful people who believe in the mission of Storied Lives and work hard to bring it to life. It’s for that reason that it is worth telling the story of how the idea originated.
My daughter, Zeenie, and I co-founded Storied Lives as a labor of love. As she was growing up, she had expressed an interest in helping the elderly and we would often talk about doing some kind of service for and with elder care and assisted living homes. In high school, Zeenie’s other lifelong passion – writing – blossomed to an extent that it seemed obvious to combine writing with social service.
Zeenie’s idea was to write stories about the lives of the elderly, and she felt strongly that there were other students (including some of her friends) who had a similar love of writing, helping others, and preserving the past through stories. As we began fleshing out the idea, we realized that storytelling was a lost art that was in the midst of making quite a comeback. Nonprofits like StoryCorps and The Moth were taking off, and even businesses were making storytelling a focus.
For example back in 2011, Terri Nopp, founder and CEO of Online Newsroom, stated that “… the Internet came along, followed by social media, and storytelling took off. Companies went from talking about products to talking about what people were doing with them.”
We realized that the unique aspect of Storied Lives would be the focus not just on oral storytelling, but on the lost art of written stories. By creating a program where students write stories about the lives of the elderly, the intergenerational benefits of storytelling come to life. Because the student is not just recording the story – but is actually writing it, they participate in it. How?
First, the student visits with – and must get to know – the elderly resident in order to shape a story about their life. Second, they breathe their own experiences and style into the story so that it becomes a collaboration between the generations. Finally, the story becomes a gift that is given back to the elderly person and stands as a testament to their achievements and impact on the world.
Every life has an amazing story. We want those lives to live on through the stories that move us all.
– Tariq Sharif, co-Founder