Here at University Christian Church we love to celebrate heroes and people who advocate for peace. With our world in so much turmoil right now the message of peace is a important one and a mission of ours. We team up with My Hero, an inspiration and educational resource, for these featured posts. This week would would like to highlight an amazing man and poet, Mattie Stepanek.
When we think of people that inspire us we usually think of great men like president John F. Kennedy or Abraham Lincoln. Both men are titans of their generation and became an inspiration to people all over the world. Inspiration comes in all shapes and sizes and it comes from people that do wonderful things in spite of the limitations on their physical ability. One such person that has become an inspiration for us all is Mattie Stepanek.
Born on July 17, 1990, the youngest of four children, each of whom got a rare and fatal genetic disorder called Dysautonomic Mitochondrial Myopathy. It is a disorder that causes muscle weakness and interrupts the autonomic functions of the body like breathing, digestion, heart rate and oxygen processing. Mattie’s mom, Jenni was unaware that she carried the gene. She was only diagnosed when she became an adult. After all of her four kids were already born. In order to function, Mattie needed the use of a wheelchair, ventilator, medicines and treatment in Pediatric Intensive Care Units. Mattie attended school until he was 8 when he began homeschooling as the disease no longer made it practical for him to handle academics. He loved to read and write and despite his disability, he enjoyed playing sports and being with his close set of friends.
Mattie began writing poetry when he was just 3 years old. His “Heartsongs” are “gifts that reflect each person’s unique reason for being.” He published six collections of his poetry and all of them became New York Times Bestsellers and began inspiring people’s lives and touching them in ways they never imagined. All of this source of love for life and inspiration for living comes from a boy that lived most of his young life going in and out of hospitals due to his condition. Mattie was so inspiring that he even had an e-mail correspondence with former US president Jimmy Carter. Due to complications of his disease, he died at the age of 13 on June 22, 2004.
Legacy for Peace
Mattie is known for being a bestselling poet but he was also an advocate for peace. He believed that all of us are born with a heartsong, a reason for being and a purpose in life. He began sharing and celebrating this idea by saying that “Hope is real, peace is possible and life is worthy!” If we all believe to choose to live a life bounded by truth in words and attitude we can become a positive living force for the world.
World at Peace
Mattie envisioned a world at peace. He saw humanity as a “mosaic of gifts, to nurture, to offer, to accept.” He believed that achieving peace in the world is a possible and that ending war matters. He believed that “peace begins within each person when we have our basic needs met.”
In 2002, he shared with the world a blueprint on how to move forward in life, by achieving personal peace that can eventually become big enough to be world peace. The philosophy by which he lived by was “ Remember to play after the storm!”