I first met my friend Mattie Stepanek a little over a year ago, when he was calling himself a "goner." His battle with a rare form of muscular dystrophy, which had already claimed the lives of his three siblings, was threatening his, yet he was using his gift of uncommon insight to write poetry he calls "Heartsongs," extending hope to people of all ages. Now, at the age of 12, he has lived longer and more fully than anyone could have predicted. That's why I asked him to be the first of 17 highly accomplished people to answer my all-time favorite question: What do you know for sure?
Oprah: I know you believe every one of us has a purpose. What's yours?
Mattie: To help others understand peace, so we can one day have it. We have to make peace an attitude. Then we have to make it a habit. Finally, we must decide to live peace, to share it around the world—not just talk about it. We each have an equal purpose, whether that purpose is big or small, and mine is huge. But I have to choose to use that bigness. Nobody ever got anywhere by sitting around, right?
Oprah: What do you know for sure, Mattie?
Mattie: That our attitude is a choice. I believe we can decide to be miserable, to roll ourselves in the dirt and say, 'Hit me again.' But when we do that, we're missing out on so much! I know for sure that while it's great to have role models, we should never try to be anyone but ourselves. I know for sure that when we use words, not bombs, we all get peace. I know for sure that there's something bigger than the here and now—some people call it God, some call it Buddha, some call it Yahweh. I know for sure that we don't need to be afraid of death, because we'll be greeted by something better on the other side. And I know for sure that life is a gift to be treasured—and that we must always live it to the fullest.
From the November 2002 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine
We Hear You!