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No Money? Don't Spend On Friday. Just Listen.

Black Friday is likely to take on a new meaning this week. Instead of pushing retailers' balance sheets into the black, many merchants will instead want to hang black crepe as they sit in empty shops, victims of our collective reluctance to spend anything in this anxious time.

But staying away from the stores needn't leave Americans with nothing to do but surf the web looking for morons who managed to record their stupid human tricks. Instead, you might try listening to someone you think you already know.

David Isay, one of the most original minds in media, is the creator of Story Corps, the nationwide project that gets ordinary people to sit together and tell the stories that we never take the time to hear from our parents, grandparents, friends and other loved ones. Some of those stories end up on NPR, and some are just recorded for a family's own safekeeping.

Now, Isay has decided to respond to the economic crisis with a National Day of Listening, on Friday. It's a way to capitalize on the fact that many of us will spend the holiday weekend with relatives or friends, and while we'll catch up on what's going on at work and how the family is doing, it's much harder to carve out the time and figure out how to ask the essential questions about life that too often never get asked: How did you meet? When did you know you were in love? Why did you move there? What did you really want to do?

Isay's idea is to ask people to set aside one hour on Friday to ask the big questions, with a tape recorder running, or at least with a pen and paper on hand. Get those answers down, even if it takes a formal interview setting to make it happen. Isay's Day of Listening site has tips on how to conduct such a conversation, lots of examples of the stories and great moments that come out of such interviews, and even ways to share your stories.

His Story Corps has recorded 20,000 interviews in its five years of work. The ones that get on the radio are often riveting, but even if yours seems pedestrian, it's guaranteed to include truths and emotions and details that would never otherwise have come out over a Thanksgiving weekend get-together. Isay says he came up with this latest idea "about a month ago in response to the economic mess." It's a simple notion: "Encouraging the nation to record a loved one as the least expensive, but most meaningful thing you can do this holiday season."

He says it's picking up steam like crazy. Check it out.

By Marc Fisher |  November 25, 2008; 1:00 PM ET
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I think not. My mom and I are planning a glorious day of window shopping and movie watching. We might turn on NPR on the way to the mall though...even though, we would rather listen to Christmas music.

Posted by: forgetthis | November 25, 2008 3:19 PM

Spending Black Friday at my Mom's house in
Cleveland, Ohio sledding in her backyard with my neices, nephews, cousins and my daughter. A yearly event we all look forward to since my Mom has an amazing hill, so high and long, to sled down. We all forget about shopping and shopping malls while we enjoy our hot cocoa warming up near the fireplace. Sounds corny but so worth it!

Posted by: pali_g | November 25, 2008 4:03 PM

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