Before my flight home from Myrtle Beach to Cedar Rapids, I downloaded six hours of a podcast called The Moth. Whenever I anticipate being restricted to airplane mode and unable to mindlessly scroll through all forms of social media, this podcast is my go-to solution. It entered my life when one of my teammates introduced me to it on a road trip sometime over a year ago, and I've loved The Moth ever since. However, what I realized while listening to The Moth on this particular flight is that it is a meaningful exercise.
The Moth is a non-profit organization dedicated to storytelling, so each episode of the podcast, ranging from 20 minutes to an hour long, is just a collection of recordings of people telling stories about their lives. And it’s wildly entertaining. Naturally, some stories appeal to me more than others, but I’ve been surprised by some stories and some storytellers that I would never have guessed could be so captivating.
For a long time I just thought that I loved great stories, but the series of stories I just happened to listen to on the plane, or perhaps the overly contemplative state I was in as a result of intense sleep deprivation, revealed to me that the quality of the stories is not the reason I love the podcast. Yes, the stories are high quality, but I love The Moth's message that everyone has a story and that everyone’s story deserves to be told and listened to.
Having listened to The Moth as much as I have, it has not only become clear to me that everyone has a story, but that most likely everyone has a story that would surprise other people if they heard it. As I looked around the plane at all the middle-aged strangers flying to Iowa, I found myself taking an interest in these people I knew absolutely nothing about. Why were they flying to Iowa? What types of music were they listening to? What are their careers?
The man next to me wasn’t particularly friendly and had a bad habit of encroaching upon my personal space with his foot and arm, but he was reading a book about how to be a creative writer. Was he a writer? Did he want to be a writer? What story did he have to tell? I found myself desiring to ask him, but social conventions stated that I shouldn’t make conversation with the silent man next to me on the plane, so instead I continued to listen to the stories of the strangers through my headphones.
I don’t think that people should automatically love the same things that I love, but I love this podcast, and I think the world would be a better place if everyone else did too. I think it’s amazing that listening to a podcast for a few hours can completely alter my perspective on the people around me. I think that considering the people around us as people with fascinating stories can help us be more tolerant, considerate, and curious. And that is why I think everyone should listen to The Moth. Even better, we should try to listen to people’s stories in person, but this is a good place to start practicing.