In his 13 years on Earth, Mattie Stepanek touched millions with his message of peace, including his friend, former President Carter. Before Mattie succumbed to mitochondrial myopathy in 2004, he and Carter penned a book together, "Just Peace." You can read an expert from the book below.
Hope is a garden
Of seeds sown with tears,
Planted with love
Amidst present fears.
Excerpt from "About Hope," May 21, 2003, by Mattie J.T. Stepanek, in Reflections of a Peacemaker: A Portrait Through Heartsongs
(Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2005)
Mattie J. T. Stepanek envisioned a world at peace. He believed that people are inherently good and generous, and that life is sacred and worthy of celebration. He was committed to making a positive difference in a world filled with conflict by gently reminding people about peaceful attitudes and habits that create a harmonious reality. And from a very early age, Mattie exemplified his personal philosophy that motivated him to cope with the many challenges of his own life, filled with disability and death and a desire for peace: "Remember to play after every storm."
Mattie was always thinking and planning, playing and pondering, and excitedly working on many projects that reflected his varied interests. He spent hours building new Lego creations, and hours scheming his next round of practical jokes. There were hours devoted to designing comic strips and characters, and hours recording his never-ending "Top Ten" lists in every category imaginable (including lists of "things to list"). Many hours passed negotiating with his health-care providers as he procrastinated over painful but necessary medical procedures, and many hours passed just sipping a cup of tea and enjoying a game of chess. But more than anything else, Mattie spent countless hours reading and writing and considering all the different ways he could share his message of hope and peace with the world.
Like many other children, Mattie was frequently asked, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" His response was not a typical one, though: "I want to be a peacemaker. . . . I want to serve as an ambassador for humanity through my thoughts and words and actions." And, like many other children who have life-threatening conditions that may prevent them from living long enough to "grow up," Mattie was asked on numerous occasions to share his "top three wishes." There are wonderful organizations that strive to grant at least one of three wishes for a child who is challenged by the reality of a shortened life span. Most children's wishes include trips to theme parks, shopping sprees, or meeting a favorite celebrity. Again, Mattie's "three wishes" response was not typical:
I wish to have at least one of my collections of Heartsongs poetry published as my gift to the world. I wish to have Oprah Winfrey share the message of hope and peace in my Heartsongs on her show because people turn to her for inspiration and direction. And, I wish to have fifteen minutes to talk peace with Jimmy Carter so that I can make sure I am doing all that I can and should be doing to become a peacemaker for others.