By Amy Hackworth. Image by Justin Hackworth.

Nothing captures our sons’ attention like a story from my or Justin’s childhood. They eat them up, our stories, and hang on every word, and wait wait wait for the punch line, when their eager laughter can spill out and bind our lives that much closer together.

Because that’s what stories do — they connect us, teach us, and unite us, whether we’re reliving a shared experience (Remember that time we…?) or gaining insight into a person we thought we knew so well (Grandma did what?!). Maybe we even learn something about our own place in the world by listening to our family’s stories.

Story Corps, the incredible nonprofit that records and shares stories from everyday people, is working hard to capture and preserve stories from all walks of life, and in the process proving that real life stories rival the best fiction, with all the right ingredients of tenderness, authenticity, emotion, coincidence, romance, or humor. And they exist within our own families.

I’m inspired by Marcie McGoldrick’s family tradition (via Martha Stewart) that started when her cousin culled family trivia into an after-dinner quiz that tested their family’s knowledge of one another. It’s become a tradition so compelling that even the children stick around after their holiday dinner to hear the stories and news that emerge from the quiz about their grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins.

The same words Story Corps uses to describe their mission could apply to what I imagine happens at the McGoldrick’s, or at your house or mine when we share stories. Story Corps says, “We do this to remind one another of our shared humanity, strengthen and build the connections between people, teach the value of listening, and weave into the fabric of our culture the understanding that every life matters.”

If you’re looking to mine your family for some new stories this holiday season, you might be inspired by the downloadable booklet template and this great list of questions.

Do you have a classic family story that gets a laugh (or maybe a groan) every time? Have you ever heard a family story that changed the way you understood yourself? I’d love to hear!