2022 0514 #PeaceMatters #MamaPeacePost
Big news to share…
Mama Peace is #MovingForthward…
Back in the mid 1990s, when a young Mattie J.T. Stepanek embraced President Jimmy Carter as his role model for living with purpose for peace, no one would have (or could have) predicted that a few years later, these two amazing humans from completely different generations would become personal close friends and colleagues.
By the time Mattie was 10 years old, this former world leader who was nearing 80 years of age embraced a young poet as his mentee. They spoke on the phone and e-mailed frequently, they enjoyed occasional opportunities to connect in person, and they shared a passion for encouraging “peace, purpose, and play” as ways of thinking, doing, and be’ing.
Together, they brought multigenerational perspectives to the important matters of tending to basic human needs and rights, of recognizing and celebrating “Heartsongs” and purpose, and of nurturing resilience in a weary world. Much of their conversation about cultivating pathways to peace became the basis of Mattie’s final book, “Just Peace: A Message of Hope,” which he penned in collaboration with his “forever friend, Jimmy.”
Before Mattie died in 2004 just before his 14th birthday, he asked me to continue his ministry of hope and his mission of peace as a part of my personal and professional life. Mattie’s final word in this world was, “Yes!” – to God, and to life, and to me. My first word beyond his passing was “Yes!” – to my son, to life, and to God.
Since then, I have chosen to continue ensuring that Mattie’s timeless and universal messages of hope and peace are available to local and global neighbors – the treasured truths of the “mosaic of gifts” he envisioned.
I have shaped what Mattie shared, and woven it in with my own philosophies and understandings.
I have created materials and programs that support youth and adults in exploring what Mattie offered – especially his “Three Choices for Peace” – so that peace moves from a desirable and pursuable possibility to an achievable and sustainable reality.
And I have, and I will, continue reaching out to folks across generations, in whatever place and space I feel I am called to be – with purpose, for peace.
I love that I have evolved from “Mattie’s mom” to “Mama Peace” – a now cherished name and identity given to me by “The Imam & Pastor of Nigeria” more than a decade ago. I have the privilege of being a memory curator, a purpose connector, a peace cultivator, and a people celebrator! Wow… and thank you!
Carrying this message and legacy forthward has involved a lot of travel – at first to connect and chat with folks who were my son’s friends and colleagues around the country, and then to connect and chat with an ever-growing number of partners and collaborators and just-good people who are curious about or committed to choosing peace.
My first trip to Sumter County, Georgia was back in 2005, when I journeyed to Plains, where the Carters live. In more recent years, most of my time in this area has been in Americus, where Mattie’s Foundation and Mama Peace were becoming well-recognized and respected and welcome. And for the past couple of years, I have actually lived here – in this amazing community – enjoying so many opportunities to facilitate and mentor more and more peace journeys – with individuals and families, with schools and organizations, and with businesses and the community at large.
When I settled into Taraji as a “neighbor” in Sumter County, it was with purpose – to build on the continuum of generations of forward progress for peace in this area – such as Koinonia Farm, Habitat for Humanity, The Fuller Housing Center… and the peace and caregiving legacies of Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter – my son’s mentor, collaborators and dear friends.
I was excited to be living my “Fourth Quarter” in this community. I didn’t know if my purpose here was going to last a year or the rest of my life, but I unpacked and settled in and began connecting and chatting and celebrating life, as I continued a ministry and mission of hope and peace.
Well, it is sooner than I had anticipated, but the time has come for me to move forthward, again.
Purpose is calling me back to Maryland – where Mattie’s Foundation was born, where Mattie’s peace legacy and progress along personal and community pathways to peace are calling for my presence, and where Mattie’s spiritual legacy (his possible Cause of Canonization, or sainthood) is rooted and amplifying.
I have begun the mega-task of boxing and transferring my Mama Peace Pad, the many (many, many) Foundation program materials and resources, and all of Mattie’s personal affects which are in storage as we develop an online virtual museum and as the Church makes decisions.
At first, I was overwhelmed – not only by the enormity of the packing tasks, but also by the mere thought of shifting in space, yet again. My first three quarters of life were abundant with changes and re-settlings into temporary or a “few years of long-term” locations. I anticipated that my fourth quarter (and overtimes) might be blessed with a bit more physical-location stability.
But as I prayed for God’s guidance (and clarification of direction) in my life journey, my heart and mind and spirit opened, and I actually smiled and said, “wow… thank You!” for this blessed opportunity to continue carrying forth Mattie’s ministry and mission, and also to continue celebrating my own presence and purpose on earth.
What first came to mind was how Mattie was inspired by the Biblical passage about Moses, when this nomadic seeker of purpose-and-place calls out to his creator asking, ‘who are you? by what name do I call you?’ Mattie was deeply inspired by God’s response, which translates simply to “I Am.” Not ‘I was’ or ‘I will’ or ‘I might – if someone else does something first.’ Simply, ‘I Am’ – an expression and celebration of timeless and universal presence and purpose.
I remember the moment Mattie excitedly told me, “We are created in the image of God – which means our presence and purpose and place in this world begins simply with ‘I am…’ We are the reflection of God, who created us of love, and with purpose, and for community!”
Mattie’s belief that we each and we all have Heartsongs – purpose that matters to us and from us and that connects us with community as we share and harmonize our reasons-for-being, his “pathways to peace” journey – through personal and community choices that ensure and enable each of us and all of us to simply be “okay” with who and how we are beyond any blessings and burdens or differences or disagreements, and his vision of humanity as a “mosaic of gifts – to nurture, to offer, and to accept,” – all of these messages that this young poet and peacemaker and philosopher who played offered are shaped by his real’ization of the truth of peace that was heard in a mountaintop moment by a person who wandered… open to God’s call, and trusting in God’s plan, and willing to say, “Yes!”
I am no Moses. I love “my stuff” and having a place-in-space to call my “Mama Peace Pad.” But I do love traveling, even meandering, and I am ever-open to learning more-and-more about our ever-so-nifty world and all our amazingly-so-diverse local and global neighbors. And so, I have embraced the call to shift, again, and journey forthward – with a “Yes!” to God… and a “hearty huzzah!” of gratitude and celebration to the community here.
“My stuff” and all the Foundation and Guild “material stuff” will be relocated to my new digs back in Rockville. But I move with belief that the “essence” of Mattie’s message and of Mama Peace’s presence will continue to be a part of Americus and Plains.
More and more folks are choosing to “get to know their neighbors” – embracing that every person and every porch has a story that is worthy of being heard, as shared by the person and porch that is the memory curator.
There are now Peace Certified schools and organizations and businesses in Sumter County and so many (many, many) people who are committed to peace – as a way of thinking and doing and be’ing – as more and more (and more) folks embrace choices that connect purpose and cultivate peace within and with others.
And more and more folks are choosing to say “yes!” to unity in community and “toast to peace” – as they “raise a glass or grateful hands” and celebrate life (ever with a hearty #Huzzah!).
It is my sincere hope, and prayer, and request, that this community also continues to proclaim July 17 (Mattie’s birthday) as “Peace Day” – a reminder of the important matters of choosing to connect within and with others, and to chat about our mosaic treasures and truths, and to celebrate “peace, purpose, and play” – for this generation, and for all generations of humanity.
There is much that I will miss as I roll back to the mid-Atlantic region. But I will be moving forthward with immense gratitude and a resounding #wow – and I will ever-curate the memories that reflect the privilege I have experienced to be appreciated – as “an outsider” who wandered in and was welcomed as a member of this community.
I hope to come back time and again as a visitor, and I will always have a beautiful and joyful space in my heart and spirit for this amazing city and for the so many people who have welcomed me, and who now become the “messengers for the messengers” – of hope, and peace.
(Jeni Stepanek, PhD)
#YouMatter #MosaicOfGifts #WeMatter
#LifeIsWorthy #ConnectWithPurpose #CelebrateLife
#Yes! #Amen #Wow #ThankYou #Huzzah!