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Nation & World

StoryCorps: 'Listening Is an Act of Love'

William Jacobs had a private conversation with his grandson that was overheard by millions of people. Their conversation was recorded and aired on Morning Edition in 2005 as part of the StoryCorps project, which has been capturing the stories of everyday Americans across the country.

In a separate conversation, Mary Caplan told a story about nursing her brother through AIDS.

Jacobs and Caplan are featured in a new book about StoryCorps called Listening Is an Act of Love, edited by StoryCorps founder Dave Isay.

Since 2003, when StoryCorps was launched, about 15,000 conversations have been recorded as part of the project.

"What StoryCorps is really about is the experience in the booth...," Isay tells Steve Inskeep. "It's about families taking the time to kind of turn off the computer screens, turn off their BlackBerrys and look each other in the eyes and tell them that they love them by listening."

Jacobs, 85, came to the StoryCorps booth at New York City's Grand Central Terminal after his daughter heard about the project and suggested he participate. His interview was conducted by his grandson Seth Fleischauer. In his story, Jacobs described the experience during World War II of learning that his fiancee could not have children. (The couple later ended up adopting children.)

Caplan came to tell her story because of an invitation from her friend Emily Collazo.

"A very good friend of mine one day told me she had a surprise for me," Caplan says. "She had a gift for me but she wouldn't tell me what it was. I knew nothing of StoryCorps. She told me I had to go to Grand Central to get my gift."

When they arrived at the booth, Caplan said she thought it was going to be a "whimsical chat."

"And while I'm very outgoing, and I love laughter and fun, I'm a very private person," Caplan says. "But something happened in that booth and I found myself telling her things that I had not told anyone and that I had not planned to speak of.

"And I remembered some things that were very sad, but I also remembered something that I had totally forgotten — that in the midst of a very, very sad time in my life, a stranger gave me an act of love and kindness," Caplan says. "And the renewal of that memory had a profound effect. And I left that booth perhaps not understanding it intellectually and from my mind, but I understood it from my heart."

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