By Areeya Tipyasothi
I first started listening to This American Life as a podcast in my sophomore year of high school. There was a school bus route that went to a church a few blocks from my house, but oftentimes I would choose to trek home from school way after the initial rush of students had fled the premises. During these walks, I would plug in my earbuds, tune out the world, and listen to Ira — he doesn’t know it yet, but we’re on a first-name basis — and his producers talk about life.
My walks began in December, so as I was listening to stories about regret and struggle, I would feel the bitter cold creeping up my feet as the moccasins I used to wear every day got soaked by mud and rainwater.
The numbing chill on my fingers and face, the still grayness of the street and the sky, the sense of solitude… I’m not sure what the tipping point was, but at some point during these walks, I realized that I was beginning to feel empathy in a way that I hadn’t yet before.
Years have passed since my winter walks — I listen to podcasts in my car now and I have traded in my moccasins for the oh-so trendy socks and Birkenstocks — but I’m still learning empathy from the stories of TAL.
In a world where our separations seem more obvious than our similarities, maybe it’s for the best that we all make an active effort in listening and empathizing. And you all can start by listening to This American Life.
This American Life (TAL) is a radio show and podcast that airs every week on NPR and online at thisamericanlife.org. Hosted by Ira Glass and distributed by Public Radio International, TAL episodes last around an hour and are split up into ‘acts’ or little stories that can range from live-recordings of comedy sets to serious journalistic works about corruption in the upper echelons of government.
The broad range of subjects that TAL covers is a testament to its name — our American lives are represented through a diverse array of stories, through people talking about their lives as soldiers, teachers, students, police officers… Everyone will be able to take something away from listening, whether it be trivia, life lessons, or something that feels a lot like hope.
Recommended episodes for the murky future ahead of us with varying amounts of reference to the current political atmosphere:
Episode 372: The Inauguration Show (Jan. 16, 2009)
Barack Obama is on the cusp of becoming President Obama; TAL covers reactions from elementary school kids to members of the military.
Episode 602: The Sun Comes Up (Nov. 11, 2016)
The Trump version of “The Inauguration Show”; people talk about their expectations of the incoming Trump administration.
Episode 576: Say Yes to Christmas (Dec. 25, 2015)
The wonders of Christmas, as explained by improv comedians, and how to fry a turkey safely.
Episode 549: Amateur Hour (Feb. 27, 2015)
An army base puts on a musical show; a stolen camera is recovered after way too much effort; teenagers take care of fake babies.