The Spaces Between Your Fingers Project

by R. Cohen Ohlstein; Matthew Ross Smith | Mar 4, 2014
The Spaces Between Your Fingers Project In July of 2009, Matthew Ross Smith set out across America with the goal of meeting 3,000 strangers, and handing each of them a postcard. On one side of the cards he’d printed a question: “If your time was short and you could tell your child or grandchild just one thing, one piece of advice, what would it be?” Instead of signing their names, he instructed the strangers to trace their handprints onto the cards—a unique “handprint signature”—so that someday a future reader might find the postcard, match the handprint...and know that was the advice they were meant to find.

The project was inspired by Smith’s grandfather, William B. McNamee, a WWII vet who, toward the end of his life, struggled with Alzheimer’s Disease. As the disease progressed, it became increasingly important for the elder to share his experiences. “One day we’ll be strangers,” he said. “Every day the world is full of more strangers.” More than anything, the disease was slowly robbing him of his ability to connect, even with those closest to him. He was becoming isolated, alone. He knew that only by sharing his memories would they be preserved.

Participants in the project—who can be anyone, including you!—are asked to isolate a specific memory—a snapshot of their experience—and to share what they learned from that experience with a future reader by inscribing the message on an old-fashioned postcard and mailing it to the SBYF Project.

The goal is to share wisdom between generations and to fight Alzheimer’s Disease.

Learn the Secret of the Spaces
The secret of the spaces between your fingers is the original piece of wisdom that inspired the SBYF Project. If you really aren’t sure how impactful Matthew’s project can be, or haven’t yet quite connected with his reason for starting it, you’ve got to read the book.

SBYF In Our Schools and Communities
Committed to creating an ongoing conversation between strangers and generations, and to supporting families struggling with Alzheimer’s Disease, the SBYF Team coordinates memory writing program in schools, community centers, and public libraries across the nation.

Last year, Matthew visited Mrs. Murray’s 4th grade classroom at Horace Mann Elementary School in Cherry Hill. He told the students about the project, and they all made postcards. “It’s very interesting how he is going across the entire country to try to hand out 10,000 postcards to strangers so they can share their ideas,” said student Jonah Cohen. “It felt good to be able to be part of something good like this, and I’m so proud that my class was able to be included,” he explained.

Mrs. Murray sent information about the project home with the students so that parents and families of the students could also get involved. She said, “I love an opportunity to have my students involved in something bigger than learning in the classroom. It provides real world connections and allows students to express themselves and share their experiences. This project connects reading and writing to the real world. I was so excited to share it with the 4th and 5th graders this year, and I hope to share it school-wide next year. I love seeing the excitement from my students when they are sharing and listening to each other. I hope this project is something my students will remember when they leave 4th grade, and that they will continue to follow the project after they leave my class. Matt's passion and enthusiasm for the project are contagious, and the more I can expose my students to those positive traits, the more I hope they take those traits with them in life.”

Get Involved!
To support the project and learn about the upcoming national tour, please click here.

Download a postcard and follow the directions. You can get one here:

Much of the information in this article was supplied graciously by the Spaces Between Your Fingers project and Matthew Ross Smith,


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Author: R. Cohen Ohlstein; Matthew Ross Smith


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