Never Forget… the Wisdom of Children

Today is the ninth anniversary of 9/11.  It seems like times stops every year on 9/11 as we reflect as a nation, a world, and as individuals the horrors of the day and the lessons learned. Over the years I have attended many lectures, read books, watched countless hours of documentaries and spoken with hundreds who have all shared and recounted the days event.  Even today I sat among people of a variety of faiths as we came together to make sense of this world that is somehow off kilter with the sole goal to learn from each other and pray- together.

However, through the years I must admit that the people who make the most sense to me are indeed the children.  Nine years ago I asked my Sunday School class to generate an idea to say thank you to the many rescuers who worked tirelessly at Ground Zero.  They decided to make a quilt of written paper messages, woven together with yarn.  The quilt was quite poignant with some messages in other languages, such as Hebrew or Spanish.  One child wrote… “I hope adults learn to play nice with others,someday”.  Others drew pictures of families holding hands.

September 11, 2001 also was the day that a poem was written that struck such a cord with me. It was shortly after 9/11 that I learned about one amazing young man, Mattie Stepanek. I was so awestruck by the wisdom of this child who spoke beyond his years and through his pain of his Muscular Dystrophy.  He wrote the most loving poem I had ever read from a child. And it has been a true privilege for me to get to know and learn more about Mattie from his mom, Jeni. She writes about Mattie and his efforts for peace in her book, MESSENGER. One of the poems that Mattie has left as his true legacy is below for your perusal and is titled, “For Our World”. My favorite portion of this poem reads..

“Stop for a moment.
Before anybody
Says or does anything
That may hurt anyone else.”

Need I say more. Nope.  Children have so much more wisdom than many adults. And because of this I have great hope that we will learn to “play nice with others”.

Here is the poem and please check out Jeni’s book, Messenger on the website dedicated to Mattie’s world and legacy at

We need to stop.
Just stop.
Stop for a moment.
Before anybody
Says or does anything
That may hurt anyone else.
We need to be silent.
Just silent.
Silent for a moment.
Before we forever lose
The blessing of songs
That grow in our hearts.
We need to notice.
Just 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.
Just 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.


September 11, 2001
© Matthew Joseph Thaddeus Stepanek
Used with permission from Hope Through Heartsongs, Hyperion, 2002

Louise Sattler is a School Psychologist, Owner of Signing Families™ and a radio personality.  Look for her new show on the HerInsight media network coming Fall 2010!

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