Matthew “Mattie” Stepanek was 14 years old when he passed away in 2004 from complications associated with Dysautonomic Mitochondrial Myopathy, a disease that interrupted his autonomic functioning. While his body was confined to a wheelchair, his spirit never was. By the tender age of 10, Mattie had fulfilled his lifelong dream of becoming a published author. The collection of poems in his book, “HeartSongs” reveal that he was wise beyond his years.
In his poem, “Leaf For a Day,” Mattie wrote about how it would feel to be a leaf, free to sway in a breeze and float on the wind. In his poem, “When My Feet Itch,” he wrote about pleasant thoughts that came to his mind in order to divert attention away from his feet when they begin to itch — because he was unable to scratch them.
Reading Mattie's story in an old newspaper clipping recently, I was reminded me of what a blessing it is to have a dream come true. Those of us who work every day to keep up with the details associated with running a growing business should always remember what a great blessing it is to even have a business of our own … to be at the helm of a dream taking shape before our very eyes.
It takes a person with special drive and perseverance to continually take action in pursuit of their business dreams. The courage and tenacity we must conjure up on a daily, even hourly, basis is extraordinary. We are all inspired in one way or another by seeing each other achieve.
But Mattie is an inspirational horse of a different color. Mattie's disease disrupts all of his body's functions, including breathing, processing of oxygen, blood pressure, digestion, body temperature, and heart rate. He moved through each day in a wheelchair, and throughout his short life, met dozens of medical challenges and procedures with great courage. What's more, he graciously lived with the knowledge that 3 older siblings, all born with the same disease, eventually died of it.
In the article, Mattie said, “I know I'm in the hospital and it's sad, but something good is happening.”
Would you have had the same attitude? I ask myself that same question.
What a remarkable response to what most would see as a tragedy of epic proportions! Even after all of these years since his death, I have often found myself recalling his courage and exceptional attitude about life's challenges.
This past weekend, my family and I awoke to discover that someone had broken into our car overnight. They stole a worthless laptop, a computer case, and my daughter's Nintendo DS. We had to delay our return home from the holiday to deal with police reports, finger print dusting and an auto glass replacement company. And the kids are missing two days of school. While we are bummed at the inconvenience, as I think of Mattie, I am encouraged.
I wonder what he would say. “Something good is happening,” maybe?
Probably. If Mattie's determination found a way around his challenges to continue pursuing his dreams, I have absolutely nothing to complain about, and what's more, I have no excuse not to do everything in my power to make my own dreams become reality — even when my family and I are threatened by those who would seek to steal our joy.
We are safe and we are together. Mattie would tell me to focus on that.
What About You?
Next time life throws you an unfair curve ball, or you are at the end of your rope for any reason, remember Mattie and find something good to focus on. It may be “trauma and drama” for the moment, but no matter what, if you are moving toward your goals, “something good is happening,” indeed.
Question: What “something good” is happening in your life today?