Book Title Page

A new edition of the SBYF Book is now available, with new illustrations from Dan Waldron.   You can get it here.  100% of all proceeds will be donated to fund SBYF writing programs.

It’s Been a Long Journey.  Like, 50,000 miles.  

How Did We Get Here?   To Begin, let’s flash waaaaaay back to 2009.

I was driving to work on a clear Spring morning.  Still kind of sleepy, and bored, I put down the window and dipped my hand into the cool, oncoming current of air.  I spread my fingers and…in the wonderful, mysterious, associative way our brains work…I remembered.  I remembered walking with my grandfather when he was sick, holding hands, listening to his stories.

 

The Original SB

 

Can you read that?  At the top it says:

But where will I find you?
I am the spaces between your fingers
Little spaces in the world seem to be keeping us a/part
What they [really do] is hold us together.

In the margin it says:

When ride in car – put hand out window – feel him there
Put hand in creek, cool water flowing past – feel him there

4/10/09.

You want to know what the VERY, VERY beginning of SBYF looked like?  That’s it.

I ended up writing a story called The Spaces Between Your Fingers.  And then:

Carrboro, NC, 2009. Ah, memories.

Carrboro, NC, 2009. Ah, memories.

 

I got curious.

What other stories were out there, lost in people’s heads?

I drove across America for 30 days and – living out of my car, sleeping in Walmart parking lots, growing a hideous scraggly beard – I passed out 3,000 blank postcards to 3,000 strangers. I asked each stranger to mail back a moment or a small piece of advice they wanted to pass on to future generations.  Again, to my surprise, 751 strangers took me up on it and mailed back the postcards.

 

SBYF Postcard from Washington State

 

It was all about connecting strangers and generations.

I had everyone trace their handprint onto the card.

So a future reader could someday find a matching handprint.

And know that was the message for them.

 

Age 84.

Age 84.

gandolf_AKL_20_Iowa

 

 

The next summer, I went out on the road again, meeting strangers, passing out blank postcards.

 

 

Somewhere in New Mexico.

Somewhere in New Mexico.

 

This time my friend Drew came along.  We decided to try something new: in a dozen of the cities, we scheduled writing workshops for people with Alzheimer’s.  We had no idea how it would go.  After the first workshop in Ohio, we drove about 10 miles in stunned silence before I said: “Dude.”  Drew nodded. What we’d done, we realized later, was take a fun idea (mailing postcards to future generations) by applying it to a population that needed it most, transformed it into something incredibly meaningful.

Sending a postcard to future generations.

Sending a postcard to future generations.

 

That experience changed me.  It changed my whole life.  It became my mission to share this experience with everyone.  Last year, with the help of some friends, we officially turned SBYF into a nonprofit.  We’ve partnered with the Free Library of Philadelphia, where we are now archiving all the postcards (10,000+ and counting).

 

 

An SBYF memory collector, Emilie, serves as a volunteer biographer at one of our workshops.

An SBYF memory collector, Emilie, serves as a volunteer biographer at one of our workshops.

 

The next step?   That’s where you come in.  Last year, we built a custom Memory Postcard Generator so that anyone, anywhere in the world, can make Memory Postcards.  It takes your photographs – those treasured memories gathering dust in your basement, or buried on your Facebook Timeline – and transforms them.  Well, you transform them.  You re-imagine your experiences as narrative scenes.  And we help.  When you’re done?  You have a postcard that you can send to friends and family, and we automatically archive a copy for future generations.  

The Immediate Dream is that we can bottle up the magical experience we had in our first workshop and share a little bit of that with you and your family.  

The Long Term Dream is that, if enough people out there value these things (like we do)…who knows, maybe we can have an even bigger effect.  


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