Peace Maker Spotlight
Peace Maker Lorene Moutanabbih
with her husband, Soufian, and daughters,
(L-R) Melanie. Mary, and Naomi.
Lorene Moutanabbih has been sharing Mattie’s message of hope and peace with children and family, and also with her students at St. Raphael’s School in Rockville, Maryland for more than a decade. During the spring of 2012, she brought her daughters and other children and parents who are members of the “Little Flowers” after-school virtues club to Mattie’s Park and Peace Garden. During the visit, the group met with Mattie’s mom, Jeni, and discussed “Heartsongs and Happy Thoughts,” and how children can choose peace in their thoughts and words and actions.
In addition to sharing peace in her role as a mom and educator, Lorene has chosen to become involved with events and activities organized by Mattie’s Foundation. In 2011, she served as a volunteer Pathways Guide at the “Life is Worthy” Station during the Foundation’s inaugural Peace Celebration.
And in 2012, she worked with her students to create ornaments for Mattie’s 2012 Peace Tree that would be on display at the Rockville Civic Center during the December holidays. When it was time for Mattie’s Foundation to decorate the tree with more than 1,000 ornaments that had been created and contributed by children and adults living on six continents around the world, Lorene brought both her mother and oldest daughter, and joined in the decorating activity.
Mattie said that we must “live peace” and we must “make peace a habit — something that is a part of our everyday words and actions, at home and at school and at work and in the community.” As a parent, as a teacher, as a volunteer, as a member of her church and as a citizen of our world, Lorene has been a role model for all that Mattie said exemplifies a person who truly lives peace from attitude to action. Now, as we begin a new year and celebrate educators, the Mattie J.T. Stepanek Foundation honors Lorene Moutanabbih as our Peace Maker Spotlight honoree for our January into February post.
Below are Lorene’s responses
to our interview questions.
I have been married for ten years to my husband, Soufian, and we have three daughters, Melanie (9). Naomi (6) and Mary (2). We are parishioners of St. Raphael’s Church (which is where I first saw Mattie, his mom and his dog, Micah).
I am a member of the Women of St. Raphael prayer group and as well am a Little Flowers ”mom”. We are a group of moms who get together with our daughters and teach and discuss with them a new virtue once a month. These virtues have been exemplified so beautifully by the way Mattie lived his life and we have incorporated his poetry/life story with some of our monthly meetings.
Interestingly, I learned about Mattie in “bits and pieces” if I could phrase it that way. Not long after I saw Mattie at our church, my mom told me that a friend of the family knew about a boy who was in the hospital and how nice it would be if my class could write him letters. I explained to my class of fourth graders that we would each be writing a letter to a boy who was just about their age and could use our kind words and our prayers. Well, sure enough, it was Mattie we were writing these letters to. As it turned out, just a few weeks later, Mattie and one of his poems was featured in our “Time Magazine For Kids” in the classroom. My class was so excited to have a face to his name and as a result we all became interested in who he was and in reading his poetry!
Quite a few years went by and I had my own children. After being a stay-at-home mom for a few years, and working part-time, I was finally back in the classroom. After a summer of reading Mattie’s poetry to my girls, visiting his park a few times, and having the wonderful opportunity of being a part of the 2011 Peace Celebration, I couldn’t wait to introduce his poetry to my first grade reading students.
I first introduced them to Mattie by telling them a few details about his life. I then moved on to showing them a few youtube clips of him speaking about his poetry and his life’s philosophy. It was simple enough for them to all understand, yet profound and challenging in some ways as well.
The first poem we read and discussed as a class was “Heartsong” and my students used their journals to write and draw their responses to it. We then moved on to “A Handful of Mattie” which was one of their favorites because we incorporated an art lesson with it and they used pastels to draw a “handful of student’s name.” As we read each new poem, my student’s were given a chance to respond to it either orally, in writing, or in drawing and had opportunities to share their experiences with their peers and their parents. I am now in my second year of introducing Mattie’s poetry and each experience is so beautiful and enlightening not only for the students, but for their parents and me as well.
How has Mattie’s poetry now influenced those around us? One cute little quote I can pass along ia from my student, Mary. After reading his “A Handful of Mattie” poem in which Mattie describes himself and his life, I asked the students, “What do you think Mattie liked to collect?” Mary responded, “I think Mattie was a collector of God’s love.” I thought that was so beautiful!
I am excited to be a part of Mattie’s Foundation because it gives hope to a generation of people who are trying to spread a true message of peace in a meaningful way. Visiting Mattie’s park with a handful of my students and fellow Little Flowers “moms” will always be a highlight of my teaching career. All that we had learned and discussed was brought to life when we had the opportunity to meet Jeni and ask her questions about Mattie and his life’s mission. We will continue to support the foundation and do whatever we can to help it grow. We feel especially blessed because Mattie’s park is in our very own town and we can visit as often as we wish- what a gift!
It is an honor to be recognized as a Peacemaker and I will continue striving to spread the message of peace with my family, my students and in my community. Thank you to Mattie for living it, and a big thanks to Jeni and the Foundation for keeping his spirit alive!
Thank you, Lorene,
for being a Peace Maker.
Click on photos to enlarge
Some of Lorene’s “Little Flowers” virtues group
during a visit to Mattie’s Park and Peace Garden.