I had the distinct pleasure of speaking to a group of third graders today - seventy-five to be exact. Summer break is coming incase you hadn't heard and I dare say students, as well as their teachers, are ready! Before I visited the classroom, I was told many of these kids loved to write and were eager to meet an author.
How wonderful, I thought, to have the opportunity to challenge them to continue writing over the summer. I am a perfect example of doing what you love and not giving up on your dreams. The kids gave me their full attention as I showed them my fourth and fifth grade school picture book where I clearly stated both years:
When I grow up I want to be a: Writer.
I encouraged the students to never give up on their dreams and not be afraid to make mistakes. One of my early writings "Iki the Elephant" was viewed - hardly legible on the yellowed paper of long ago. Clearly, it was a masterpiece to have been saved these many decades. I distinctly recall my teacher being very impressed with the story. Yet misspelled words riddled the page and, honestly, the storyline hardly kept my attention. I hoped the teachers would not whip out their red pens today.
"Iki" was shared as a glowing example that it is okay to make mistakes. Not a great speller? "Don't let that keep you from writing," I told them. I would not be the speller I am today if it had not been for my love of writing (and a little help from spellcheck) Growing up, my stories never sounded like the rest of the classroom - I recall feeling embarrassed and thinking mine was wrong. "That just means you are being creative," I assured them.
Admittedly, I have experienced some pretty exciting things in the past six months thanks to my tenacity, along with a driving ambition to help folks with Alzheimer's disease: I had a book published, for goodness sakes. I have met with our Nation's leaders and asked for support and funding for research. Stone Benches is gracing shelves of bookstores worldwide and traveling to places I only dream of going. There were audible gasps in the room when I shared that I recently had a book signing at Barnes and Noble.
Yet when I opened it up for questions - they didn't ask about any of this.
Not one question about these exciting events - and not a single question about my pen-pal of over twenty years who lives across the pond and has personally met the Queen of England. So what were the litany of questions about? Who was their attention drawn to? These folks with Alzheimer's disease, of course. They wanted to know if they would get better, if a brain transplant might help them. The children asked how long they would live and how old my dad was. They asked what was being done to help cure this disease.
At the end of our time together, many of the kids brought me signs and cards they had made. A couple were for me - most were for the folks at Memory Care. The overwhelming message was "Get Better Soon". Had I not gotten my message across? I was certain it had been explained in no uncertain terms there was no cure or treatment for this disease - that it was irreversible. We even discussed how we could communicate with these folks when they could no longer talk to us. "What they can do today they might not be able to do tomorrow."
Yet the students' message was unmistakeable - Get better soon! As I drove home from Dad's Memory Care after delivering the cards - leaving a picture of a smiling face in Dad's lap as he clung to it long after falling asleep - I realized their message was hope. A message we cannot afford to lose. With research answers will be found - the day will come these folks will get better. Yes, indeed, may answers come soon.
#StoneBenches #TheyHaveAName #EndAlz #HOPE #Classroom #3rdGraders