Blog Spotlight: The Best Day of My Life (So Far)
When Karina gave me my blogging assignment for this week, I knew I was in for a treat as soon as I clicked over to The Best Day of my Life (So Far). Clearly, as a member of First Person Arts and having interned here for the last four months, I have a love for memoir and documentary art. I have also always been drawn to elders in my family and community, eager to hear their first person accounts of a time gone by. The Best Day of my Life (So Far) combines these passions beautifully, providing a forum for seniors to share their stories with their families (and blog readers the world over).
As bowled over as I was by such an inspired project, I was really wowed when I got to sit down and chat with the blog’s creator, Benita Cooper. Inspiration struck when Benita moved away from her family for the first time and suddenly she couldn’t take their presence and their stories for granted anymore. For the first time in her life, she called her grandmother just to talk. Those conversations sparked something in her, and she can remember the exact day in June 2006 that she sat down to start writing because, as she puts it, “a book had to be done.”
The book, which she continues to work on, was just the beginning. Lightning struck twice and one day in 2009 she knew what the next leg of the journey had to be. She immediately walked down to a nearby senior center to announce that she wanted to do a writing class with the residents. Thus the blog was born.
A blog was settled on as the medium for sharing the senior’s stories so that out of town family members could see what their loved ones were writing for class. Seniors wrote and edited, volunteers transcribed, and Benita posted. Soon, a Facebook page and a Twitter account were deployed to help connect family and friends to the blog, and that’s when the project started to go viral. As Benita puts it, “I am the most unlikely person to be doing this, and I never imagined it would grow like it has.”
Volunteers, in fact, have started popping up not just all over the country, but all over the world. One is working with Benita to launch a chapter in Hong Kong. What else are they up to? From the blog, “our team is also seeking funding to launch additional classes at other senior centers, a public reading series at local theaters and high schools, a video documentary in collaboration with high-school filmmakers, and a more collaborative and interactive website.” Benita touched on the high school filmmakers idea in our interview and describes a program that would help at-risk teens become the next generation of story tellers, moving from a traditional in-class format, to a face-to-face experience that would translate to video and web to share their stories.
The energy around these projects continues to grow and grow. The book that inspired the blog has inspire a whole new concept (and thus rewriting) of the book. As Benita balances writing and editing with memoir class at the senior center, blogging and developing further projects, the blog continues to pick up steam, readers, and volunteers around the world. More importantly, it continues to give a voice to those too often forgotten in our society, and to break down the stereotype of seniors as technophobes who wouldn’t see a blog as an outlet for their words.
Please check out the blog and follow them on Twitter and Facebook. You will no doubt be in awe of the community flourishing under the passion of Benita Cooper and her many volunteers. Don’t be surprised if you get inspired to start writing yourself, lend a hand or even just start telling your friends and neighbors about this must-read blog. I know that’s how I felt!
-J. Rudy Flesher