The holiday season is a time to give thanks for our blessings and, out of our gratitude, to give gifts. Miraculously, gifts flow back to us in return - gifts of love, help and hope.
My late son, Mattie J.T. Stepanek, passionately believed in miracles. Yet he was one of the most logical, down-to-earth people I've ever known. Mattie believed that people could change the world by sharing the gifts they've been given.
In his poem For Our World, Mattie wrote: "Our differences are unique treasures. We have, we are, a mosaic of gifts To nurture, to offer, to accept."
Through his best-selling poetry and peace advocacy, Mattie shared his gift of "heartsongs" and inspired many. And, as National Goodwill Ambassador for the Muscular Dystrophy Association, he witnessed first-hand the gifts given to MDA with loving generosity by donors across the country.
Mattie benefited physically from the research and medical care these gifts provided, and emotionally from the carefree fun of MDA summer camp. You could say those gifts to MDA helped keep Mattie's gifts alive.
Mattie died this past summer, three weeks before his 14th birthday, of a rare neuromuscular disease that often kills in infancy. His life lasted so amazingly long thanks in part to the skill and care of medical professionals, the prayers and support of friends, the faithful donation of blood and platelets, and the technological advances that helped him stay one playful skip ahead of death for so many years.
These gifts, combined with Mattie's gift of heart, were enough to create a miracle.
This holiday season, in Mattie's honor, I'm reminding people that we are a mosaic of gifts. A mosaic gains its meaning and beauty when many small pieces combine. Together, each sharing a little, we can open the way for miracles to happen.
Did you know that half of all charitable donations in the United States are made between Thanksgiving and Christmas? And that the biggest percentage of these donations comes from individual donors, not big corporations or foundations?
Never doubt that it's the little guy who keeps the world running. These small gifts combine to become such miracles as medical care, scientific research, basic humanitarian assistance and poetry to feed the human spirit.
As you participate in the mad dash of our modern holiday season, please remember to give your gifts from the heart. Share what you can with non-profit and charitable organizations that benefit our greater human family. These gifts will come back to you in unseen, miraculous ways.
As Mattie wrote in Believing for the Journey: "Doing so can help each person Believe in himself or herself More fully, and Give confidence that may Inspire each person To do more and More new and good things For the self, For others, and For the world."
Jeni Stepanek, mother of best-selling poet Mattie Stepanek (Hyperion Press), lives in Rockville, Md. A researcher and Ph.D. candidate in special education, she has the adult-onset form of mitochondrial myopathy, the disease that took the lives of her four children. She's a national vice president of the Muscular Dystrophy Association.