April 21, 2013

Adventures With "Flat Matthew"

When my dear friend Dianna suggested I take "Flat Matthew" along on my recent trip to Europe I was nonplussed.  But she insisted, mumbling something about a six year-old from Kansas but still not making a lot of sense.  Finally, the day before my departure last month she delivered "Flat Matthew" and his instructions and I was hooked!

Matthew Dobson is a first grader at Spring Hill Elementary School in Spring Hill, Kansas.  At the beginning of the school year his class read the book "Flat Stanley" by Jeff Brown.  In the story, Stanley becomes flat when a bulletin board fell on him but rather than seeing this as a disability, Stanley's parents took advantage of his flatness to send him around the world in the mail.  It was a true "when life gives you lemons..." analogy and Matthew Dobson's class decided to make themselves flat, at least figuratively, and see what adventures awaited.

According to the address list on the back of "Flat Matthew", he had already criss-crossed the United States a few times and had even been to Afghanistan before he came to me.  One look at that little boy's face and I was committed to providing this child with a memorable experience.

The instructions requested that we send a postcard from wherever "Flat Matthew" visited back to his school and to take photos of "Flat Matthew" in these different locations.  We were also asked to write a few words in the accompanying "Adventure Book" and finally to forward "Flat Matthew" and his props to someone else who would continue the chain.  He just had to be back in Spring Hill, Kansas by the end of the school year!

"Flat Matthew" became my mission and an almost constant companion over the past few weeks!  I photographed him in the snow in Paris and my husband braved hair-raising traffic on the Champs Elysée to get a shot of him with the Arc de Triomphe in the background!  "Flat Matthew" accompanied us to Prague and last weekend I pressed my mother into service to take him to the Welland Canal in Ontario, Canada.  After all the foreign travel, I wrapped up his tour with a visit to Central Park including shots with Balto the sled dog and with the New York City skyline in the background.

I am getting ready to return "Flat Matthew" to his school in Kansas, and I have to say I'm going to miss the little guy.  What started as a favor to a friend turned into a quest to give this first grader the virtual trip of a lifetime and I was enriched along the way.  My wish is that these postcards and photos inspire young Matthew to travel the world, and maybe, somewhere along the way, he'll remember those people who took his flat person along when he was just a child of six!

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