The Voice: Summer 2003
Good stories are everywhere. We just have to find them.
By: Andrew De Jong
At least, thats what Dr. James Schaap told usme and four of my
classmatesat the beginning of this semester. He had recently asked us to help
him with a new book project of his and had gathered us for
our first group meeting in the cluster of offices in the classroom building
known as the English pod.
Dr. Schaap described the details of the project to uswe were going to
find interesting people from all different backgrounds and locations in Sioux County, interview
them, and then write about them. The way he said it made it
sound so easyprobably, I thought, because hes done this kind of thing many
Everybodys got a story, he said. And most people love to share their
I cant speak for my four classmates, but I wasnt feeling quite as
confident as Schaap was. Maybe it was because I, a college sophomore, was
working on a book with a published writer, or maybe it was because
the interview assignment was the one I didnt do well on in Advanced
Expository Writingin any case, I wasnt sure I was going to be able
to do the job I was being given.
I was the most nervous about the interviews themselves. Schaap made it seem
like people would be dying to tell me their stories, but I thought
that nobody would want to talk to me, that they would feel I
was being nosy. Schaap seemed to have faith in us, though, so I
put my concern aside and got started on my first profile.
My first subject was Kathy De Groot, co-owner of Caseys Bakery in Sioux
Center. I wrote her a letter informing her of the details of our
project, then I called her a few days later to set up the
interview. I went to Wal-Mart and bought a tape recorder and plenty of
extra batteries and blank tapes and returned to my dorm to compile a
huge list of possible questions in case I ran stuck. I was nervousI
didnt know if a college student and a bakery owner would have anything
to talk about, or if Kathy would want to talk to me at
Turns out, I had no reason to be nervous. The interview went great,
and I abandoned my list of questions halfway through. Kathy was so eager
to talk that I barely even had to ask questionsfor the most part,
all I did was nod, smile, and say mmm hmm every now and
then. She covered almost everything in those two short hours: childhood, family, the
ins and outs of the bakery business, and even God, grace, and Providence.
Each interview that followed has lived up to that first one. A group
of retirees who volunteer at Justice For All, a Venezuelan veterinarian who works
at Trans Ova Geneticsall have shared their lives with me eagerly. They like
to tell their stories, I think, because it makes them feel special. Looking
back on their lives like that makes them feel that its all been
worthwhilethe twists and turns, the triumphs, and the failures. Telling me their story
makes them realize something they may have known all along: that their lives
have meaning. And I realize something too: that interviewing these people is an
act of love.
My classmates, I think, realize it too. We still meet every so oftenat
Schaaps house this timeto eat together and talk about our experiences with the
people weve interviewed. Many of my classmates talk about their subjects with a
sense of awe; just like me, they feel that they are serving these
people by telling their stories, not invading their privacy. And just like me,
they feel amazed and blessed by the stories they have heard.