Back when I was a kid, I delivered the Erie Morning News to about 35 customers in Erie, Pennsylvania each day. I walked or rode my bike around the block every morning through all kinds of weather. It was dark and stormy many mornings. The streets were sometimes covered with worms. Mom or dad would drive me in the winter time thankfully--especially with the big Sunday papers. In the summer, the weather was great but the ink would come off on my hands as the temperature rose.

My customer, Mr. Kirclich, wanted the paper safe and dry inside his door. I just had to be sure to not slam the door (no matter how hard the wind was blowing) or endure his wrath. Mrs. Reuben wanted her paper nice and early--she would call if it seemed too late. Mrs. Hayes didn't care when it came, just as long as the paper arrived eventually.

I dreaded "collecting" the paper route. I had to go around the block, usually on a Saturday afternoon, to ask my customers for money. Actually, I didn't dread it after I got started because my neighbors looked forward to my visits. We would sit at the kitchen table together. They shared cookies; we chatted about my school and my friends. We traded stories about the neighborhood and what was happening in the world. By the time I would finally come home after three hours or so, I would have had a marvelous time. My dinner was usually spoiled by eating my way around the block. It turned out that my paper route was a good thing after all.

I look back on that paper route on Loveland Ave. in Erie, Pennsylvania and I think about what made it special. It was getting to know my neighbors and understanding what made them who they are. They told me about their joys and challenges of life. We were connected through our stories.

Stories help us relate to one another; they build community. Storytelling is an often underestimated technique proven to bridge social distance between families, friends, corporations, government and generations. Both the giver and receiver of stories benefit in a big way.

“Personal narratives are uniquely powerful medium for expressing needs and building bonds. People like to tell their own stories; most like to listen to others’ as well. The pleasures of narrative are addictive,”coauthors Robert D. Putnam and Lewis M. Feldman write in Better Together: Restoring the American Community. Putnam and Feldman encourage people to build "social capital"--there IS value in our social relationships.

If you are looking for innovative ways to build community--helping neighbors to become friends, look to LifeBio's reminiscence programming. If you're ready to take the next step forward with person-centered care, LifeBio can help with a variety of tried and tested ideas for recording life stories. Group programming is available as well as do-it-yourself options.

See the entire 2009 LifeBio Catalog--programming for groups!

Call 1-866-543-3246 or visit to access our online store. Email us at if we can help with any questions.

Autobiographically Yours,

Beth Sanders
Founder & CEO