living in the sunlight
Oftentimes our public storytelling focuses on reporting on people, rather than on observing them. Sometimes, in storytelling, we see a need to pass judgment on the subjects, casting them as simply cogs in an unmanageable societal machine. But the act of observing people allows them to maintain their agency, their sense of vitality.
Boyd Huppert maintains this posture in his work as a storyteller at Kare11. He produces the series Land of 10,000 Stories, which airs weekly and features a human-interest story from Minnesota.
Growing up, Boyd was enamored with the work of Charles Kuralt, the great American journalist who traveled the country via the back roads to tell the stories of individual American people. Boyd knew that was the sort of work he wanted to do.
The whole appeal of the work for him is highlighting people who would otherwise be overlooked. Most of the people featured in Land of 10,000 Stories have never had their story told before. Boyd says it’s about recognizing the inherent good of the people in the community.
In a world seemingly dominated by headlines of doom, corruption, evil and polarization, these stories of levity, of the everyday human experience, remind us that we’re still human.
“I think I’m less cynical than most people because I’ve had the privilege of experiencing goodness in people. And when you do a story, you really see inside their souls.”
He says that sometimes it seems as if 99% of people operate in the shadows of 1% of people. Negativity casts a shadowy net. We cannot and must not become accustomed to living in the shadows. We must live in the sunlight.
Boyd tells stories to highlight the good in people in hopes of displaying happiness in a sometimes-dark world. But it’s not the only reason. He sees the telling of a good story as an exploration of the human condition.
It’s really a continuous exploration. In meeting the variety of people he does, Boyd is always learning something new. He speaks about the value of bearing witness to people pursuing something they love. Almost all of the stories he tells are a view into this process.
It’s the stories themselves that motivate Boyd to keep exploring. Over the course of our conversation, for each of my questions, he would return to the example of a story he had crafted. The lessons voiced by these stories are many, significantly valuable, and always relevant, at least to someone.
Different stories resonate with different people. The feedback he gets from viewers is overwhelmingly positive, though it comes in all varieties. Individually, we view stories through our own prisms, Boyd says. When he hears a negative response to one of his stories, he says it “has nothing to with the story itself, but everything to do with the person watching the story.”
Stories are valuable in part because they can help illuminate what we may not recognize in ourselves. They have the ability to take us out of ourselves and place us in the shoes of another. They bring to light truths which may be obscured by a temporary reality.
“It all starts with a good story,” says Boyd. Stories are imperative to the human condition. They are the composition of our lives and our means of exploration. It’s thanks to people like Boyd that these lessons can be learned.
If you’re interested in seeing some of the stories Boyd has produced for the series Land of 10,000 Stories, here are a few he referred to in our conversation:
“Bike ‘MacGyver’ gives all kids a chance to ride’: Jack Carlson toils in his garage to make sure all kids have a bike they can ride. https://www.kare11.com/article/news/bike-macgyver-gives-all-kids-a-chance-to-ride/89-490313183
“WWII vet forms unlikely friendship with preschooler”: Three-year-old Emmett Rychner and 89-year-old Erling Kindem formed an unlikely friendship when they were neighbors in Farmington, Minnesota. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j3aItuZcpiE
“Neighbors put out chairs for walking WWII veteran”: Every few hundred feet along Harvey’s walk sits a seemingly random chair- some next to driveways, others on front lawns. https://www.kare11.com/article/news/local/land-of-10000-stories/neighbors-put-out-chairs-for-walking-wwii-veteran/480541090
“Undeterred by diagnosis, farmer builds 1,000 wooden toys”: Unable to work on his family farm, John Volz got busy in his garage in town. Nine months later, he’s built a thousand wooden toys to give to children. https://www.kare11.com/article/news/local/land-of-10000-stories/undeterred-by-diagnosis-farmer-builds-1000-wooden-toys/89-498723297
“Founder of laughing club still chuckling” https://www.kare11.com/video/news/local/land-of-10000-stories-founder-of-laughing-club-still-chuckling/89-817016
“Father speaks 25 years after murders of wife, daughter”: The horror unfolded in the headlines 25 years ago this month (Oct, 2017). Julie Hage, a 25-year-old nurse, had picked up her children at daycare after work and walked in on an intruder who had broken into the family’s Brooklyn Park home. https://www.kare11.com/article/news/local/land-of-10000-stories/father-speaks-25-years-after-murders-of-wife-daughter/481597137