What do you do when you are a survivor of one of the world’s more rare and complicated transplant procedures and you suddenly find yourself in the middle of a global pandemic? How do you possibly show the proper respect for the gift of life given by the loss of another person’s child?
The answer is simple. You stay home.
On March 11, I got an e-mail from Patrick’s transplant team in Nebraska telling us that they felt the threat had become significant enough that we needed to pull him out of school. On about an hour’s notice, I e-mailed Patrick’s teacher saying he’d need to find a way to attend remotely if possible. Then I drove to the school, packed his locker, collected a week’s worth of assignments, said goodbye to the handful of friends we could catch. And we came home.
Of course, the governor of Utah made the call at the same time to also close schools and so to begin with, we weren’t doing this alone. Most of the world came home with us.
But as the world reopens, we are staying in. And that’s a hard thing for an outgoing 11-year-old only child to do in the summer.
Patrick loves summer adventures. He loves travel. He loves people. And so I wracked my brain trying to think of how I could possibly help him to have a fun and memorable summer from our family room.
And then one day it clicked. Flat Stanley!!
If you’re not familiar with Flat Stanley, here’s the basic idea. Stanley is flat because a bulletin board fell on him. But because he’s flat, he discovers that he can travel by mail. There are 15+ books about Stanley and his adventures around the world and we intend to read them all. But also, there’s something called the Flat Stanley Project where kids mail Flat Stanley around the world and people take pictures with Stanley in interesting places, write letters about his adventures, and mail them back.
Patrick can’t go out because of COVID. But Flat Stanley can travel the country and even the world and not risk getting sick. See, he’s flat, so he can travel by mail… and he’s paper, which means he’s immune to viruses! He can visit our friends. He can see the sights. He can collect pictures and memorabilia and stories for us. He can recommend new and interesting places for us to read about or watch on YouTube. He can help connect us to the world.
We’ve got our Stanley made, laminated, and tucked into an envelope for his very first adventure, which starts tomorrow. But we’re also launching a Virtual Flat Stanley Project. (See the instructions on our page here.)
While our paper Stanley’s off traveling via mail, he might as well also “visit” some other places. So we’re publishing a printable version of our Stanley as well as a link to a template where you could print and create your own Stanley.
We’re also sharing a website where Stanley’s adventures can be logged as entries on a world map.If you’d like virtual Stanley to visit you, just print him off and take him on an adventure. Take pictures, collect memorabilia, write a story.. whatever. Then shoot us a message letting us know that Stanley’s visited and we’ll get you info about how you can share the adventure with Patrick either electronically or by mail.
We really hope that this will be a fun way to help Patrick feel more connected to the world. And we hope you’ll have fun joining in the adventure with us.