If you haven’t yet heard about Mattie Stepanek, let me tell you about him. In June 2004, three years before he would have been old enough to drive, he lost his brave battle with a rare and fatal neuromuscular disease.
In his life, he experienced the difficult loss of three siblings. He endured physical, emotional and spiritual pain. But Mattie was an astute young boy who had profound wisdom about things that matter most. He celebrated life every day. He recognized the beauty in everyday circumstance and he lived knowing happiness is never out of reach, if you just look with your heart.
Mattie began sharing his thoughts when he was just three years old. His poems and essays are among the most beautiful I’ve ever read. They are his legacy, his heartsongs.
Believing in Someday
We will all join hands
And live together…
Helping each other,
Loving each other,
We will all make the world
A much better place…
And be like a gigantic,
Smoothly rushing river of peace –
A loving circle that nothing can break,
We may start with just one person,
And one permanent peace agreement
Within one’s self, within one’s world.
Personal peace can then spread
Within and between the families,
Then within and between communities,
And then within and around the whole world.
We can become
As close to perfect
As anything and anyone can get.
Let us each join our own Heartsong
With this old song of the heart, and believe…
“Let there be peace on earth,
And let it begin with me.”
Written in 2000 when Mattie was 9
Award winning photographer Andrew Zuckerman traveled to seven countries to ask people over age 65 what they’d like others to know. In his new book, Wisdom, you can read about what they said. The October issue of Reader’s Digest included a few examples, and of those, I have my favorites.
Desmond Tutu (antiapartheid activist, winner of the 1984 Nobel Peace Price and winner of the 2005 Gandi Peace Prize)
“Each one of us can make a contribution. Too frequently we think we have to do spectacular things. Yet if we remember that the sea is actually made up of drops of water and each drop counts, each one of us can do our little bit where we are. Those little bits can come together and almost overwhelm the world. Each one of us can be an oasis of peace.”
Nelson Mandela (civil rights leader, prisoner for 27 years for his antiapartheid work, co-winner of the 1993 Nobel Peace Price, elected South Africa’s first freely chosen president)
“Wounds that can’t be seen are more painful than those than those that can be seen and cured by a doctor. I learned that to humiliate another person is to make him suffer an unnecessarily cruel fate. I learned that courage was not the absence of fear but the triumph over it. I felt fear myself more times than I can remember, but I hid it behind a mask of boldness. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid but he who conquers fear. Where people of goodwill get together and transcend their differences for the common good, peaceful and just solutions can be found, even for those problems that seem intractable.”