Of all of the brave young people I have known and read about, I guarantee you that none of them were ever as courageous and peaceful as Mattie Stepanek. The boy lived his life with a rare muscular dystrophy and, in most cases, people would just let a disability stop them from achieving their ambitions. Mattie, however, was an exceptional human being. He started writing poetry at a young age to cope with the loss of his older brother. His first 5 poetry books all made the New York Times’ best seller list but his most famous work, Just Peace: A Message of Hope, was awarded the IPPY Gold Medal for Peacemaker Book of the Year. The boy’s courage led to him lobbying before the United States congress for peace, the rights of people with disabilities and for the rights of people with life-threatening conditions.
Unfortunately, this brave boy lost his life shortly before his 14th birthday in 2004. He is truly an inspiration for all activists who want peace and justice in this world, as he overcame all the odds to fight for his dream and, while he may not be with us, we all must do our utmost to make his dream a reality.
This is a poem Mattie wrote 11 years ago in response to the 9/11 tragedies and I truly hope that, after reading this poem, you will all see how special this boy was and appreciate his bravery, tenacity and constant pursuit of peace.
“We need to stop.
Stop for a moment.
Says or does anything
That may hurt anyone else.
We need to be silent.
Silent for a moment.
Before we forever lose
The blessing of songs
That grow in our hearts.
We need to notice.
Notice for a moment.
Before the future slips away
Into ashes and dust of humility.
Stop, be silent, and notice.
In so many ways, we are the same.
Our differences are unique treasures.
We have, we are, a mosaic of gifts
To nurture, to offer, to accept.
We need to be.
Be for a moment.
Kind and gentle, innocent and trusting,
Like children and lambs,
Never judging or vengeful
Like the judging and vengeful.
And now, let us pray,
Differently, yet together,
Before there is no earth, no life,
No chance for peace.”
RIP Mattie Stepanek (July 17, 1990 – June 22, 2004), the original Global Changemaker.
Have a good night, everybody.