(upper left): Pastor Amy Truhe, Schere Memorial Lutheran Church
(upper right): Marylin Warner, Mary Shepherd and Flat Grace (lower left): Real Grace’s mom, Molly
(First, a brief explanation about the original FLAT STANLEY by Jeff Brown, published in 1964. In the popular children’s book, Characters Stanley Lambchop and his brother Arthur are given a bulletin board, but during the night it falls from the wall and flattens Stanley as he sleeps.
He makes the most of his altered state, sliding under the doors of locked rooms, being used as a kite by his brother, etc. The BIG advantage, though, is Stanley can visit friends by being mailed in an envelope. The FLAT STANLEY PROJECT that evolved from the books connected students with other schools, towns/cities, states and countries. In 2005, more than 6,500 classes from 48 countries took part in the project, sending their crayon-colored paper dolls on adventures.
In 1999, when our daughter Molly was student teaching, her 2nd grade class participated in the project, and we took pictures of Flat Stanley in Colorado for her students. Now, more than a dozen years later, Molly’s daughter continues the tradition…)
Wow! This was a different visit, wasn’t it? At first you were confused by the “Flat Grace” paper doll I brought with me to Ft. Scott, but soon you rallied. Once you understood that your 8-year-old great-granddaughter, Grace, had made a paper doll of herself as part of her 3rd grade project, you joined in the fun.
When Flat Grace posed with us in your apartment, you laughed and hugged her. She went on to pose with other nice people, and the pictures will all be used in Real Grace’s final report on the project.
As we looked at the pictures on my digital camera, I realized Flat Grace had reinforced some of your lessons:
~ NEVER UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER OF A SMILE.
Some might think it’s a silly waste of time, posing for a picture with a paper doll, but I didn’t encounter even one critical person. I approached people in the spirit of good-natured fun, the way I’d watched you do numerous times when I was a child. I smiled and described the 3rd-grade class project in Chapman, almost two hundred miles away, and everyone responded with good-natured enthusiasm.
~ EVERYONE HAS A STORY. LISTEN.
When I asked random people to pose with Flat Grace for the project, many remembered the original novel and shared their stories: their children or neighbor kids, mailing their Flat Stanleys on adventures; the last-minute taped repairs when Stanley lost an arm or leg; the excitement on young faces when envelopes arrived in the mail, returning the paper dolls with pictures or journals of the adventures.
You and Dad both taught me this, Mom: when people meet and share their experiences–when they listen and laugh and respond–something magical happens.
~ ENCOURAGING A CHILD IS TIME WELL SPENT. Always.
Admiring art efforts, pitching for batting practice, listening to piano scales or recitation of multiplication tables or a song sung slightly off key…or posing for a picture with a child’s flat paper doll on an adventure…is time well spent.
It’s also double the fun when you do it with someone you love, Mom, and you’re very much loved.
Pictures below: Grace’s Grandpa and dog Maggie with Flat Grace; a wonderful park ranger at the Historic Fort Scott site, who stepped up and helped hold Flat Grace in the wind; the really nice young man at the Dairy Queen window who said, “Sure, I’d be glad to help.” (Thanks to many others–Grace’s great- Uncle David, Mom’s caregiver Martha, and many other volunteers–I messed up and couldn’t get all your pictures in here, but they will be included in Grace’s 3rd-grade project.)