Peace Bringer Spotlight

Posted on: September 25th, 2013 by jeni No Comments

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Peace Bringer

Fall 2013

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The Smith Family

Curt, Andrea, Reagan & Katie

Maryland, USA

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The Smith Family — Curt, Andrea, Reagan, and Katie – have been advocates for disability awareness since their youngest daughter (Katie) was diagnosed with a rare metabolic condition. But across the years, the attitudes and actions of “how” they advocate have shifted. The Smiths have set a mission of peace as their goal — for their family, for other families affected by disability, and for all others in the world who are suffering for any reason.

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When little Katie was diagnosed with a mitochondrial myopathy, a therapist suggested that the family read books by another child with disability, Mattie J.T. Stepanek. The family was burdened with not only the physical and logistic challenges of coping with disability, but also with the social responses and stigma of disability. As a result, they were sad, and angry, and frustrated. Exploring Mattie’s message of hope and peace helped them realize the power of their own choices in attitude and action, and the difference that can make for their family, and for others. Choosing peace does not take away the challenges, or even get rid of sadness or anger or frustration. But choosing peace is what makes life worthy of celebration despite challenges, and peaceful choices can connect us with others for mutual support.

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Now, as we celebrate individuals and groups during National Disability Awareness Month, the Mattie J.T. Stepanek Foundation honors The Smith Family — Curt, Andrea, Reagan and Katie – as the Peace Bringer Spotlight Honorees for our Fall 2013 post.

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The Smith Family — Peace Bringer Spotlight Feature

 

Curt and Andrea Smith in Washington, DC. The Smith family, Peace Bringer Honorees, are advocates for disability awareness, and for peace.

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Tell us a bit about yourself.

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We are the Smith family — Curt and Andrea, and our children Reagan (14) and Katie (6).

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Curt is a CFO, but supporting and advocating for children with mitochondrial myopathies has become a priority to him.

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Andrea has been told she has the gift of bringing people together. Her interest — like the her family’s interest — is to advocate and lobby for children with disabilities and equality for all.

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Reagan, our teenager, enjoys community service.  She has raised money for clean water projects in Africa, and she volunteers time with children who have disabilities to give families respite and a needed break.

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Our daughter Katie, who is turning 6 this October, enjoys kindergarten and many activities. Katie was diagnosed with a rare metabolic mitochondrial myopathy. When she grows up, Katie wants to be a doctor so she can help people. Her back up plan  is to be “the President of our country.”

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Our whole family spreads peace by our words and actions. We try to bring peace by speaking kindly and gently to everyone and by being non-judgmental and respecting people’s differences.

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We also try to support and love on people who are hurting and suffering. We support each other as a family, we send well wishes to others in need, and we try to help others find joy in life — joy for themselves and for others, especially those who are different in some way.

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Peace Bringer Honorees, Katie (5) and Reagan (14) are both members of Mattie’s Peace Club.

What does “peace” mean to you?

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Peace to us is the opposite of war — war within ourselves, or war with others.

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Peace is avoiding social conflict by treating everyone in a more humanistic way, rather than behaviorally which can result in violence.

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Peace is letting go of fear, and allowing forgiveness to come into your heart. If you learn to forgive, you can learn the key to happiness.

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With peace, and an open and non-judgmental mind and heart, we can learn people who are different are not our enemies. They can be our friends.

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With peace, light and joy will abide in you.

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Having peace in your life  helps you learn to trust, and to be honest, which helps us become non-judgmental. When others “cross” you, serenity and peace stay with you.

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When our daughter was first diagnosed with a rare neuromuscular disorder, our family lived in fear and anger. We were burdened down with hard hearts, and troubled minds. We felt that nothing could soothe our daughter’s suffering.

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Also, we have had to deal with other challenges, like when an extended family member doesn’t understand our daughter’s condition, or a doctor who doesn’t take us seriously, or even the stares and bullying our daughter endures from people who do not know how to interact with a child who has a disability.

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We were all exhausted and felt beaten down mentally, not realizing the negative impact it was already having on a child with a chronic illness. But when we crossed the bridge to peace — we became aware of smiles again.

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Living in peace gave our minds a great natural rest. We found it increasingly easier to greet people with kindness and friendliness, including people who were difficult for us to interact with. A troubled mind can exacerbate physical symptoms, even for young children.

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Now, we look for ways to take compassionate action to help the ease of anyone suffering.  Besides lobbying for children’s health issues in the United States, we have decided to look beyond to those who are different than us — in color, in speech, in nationality.

 

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Peace Bringer Honoree, Katie Smith (5), practices using her power wheelchair. “I pray to Mattie to help me be brave and be strong like he was,” Katie said. “I am scared to go to school in my new wheelchair. When I go out everyone stares at me and sometimes my friends say things that hurt my feelings, so I think of Mattie and I pray to him so I don’t say anything mean back.”

How did you learn about Mattie?

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Upon receiving Katie’s diagnosis, a therapist told us to read Mattie’s books to Katie.

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The subject of friendships can be painful for Katie and myself because of her chronic illness. The lack of day-to-day socializing was a hard adjustment and it felt like there was a hole in my heart that was once filled with the sights and sounds of other people.

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Mattie caught my attention because he was so young, and so wise and witty and filled with so much love, yet so ill. He didn’t avoid the difficult task of putting into words the pain of coming to terms with the loss of his brothers and sister, and still offering hope and peace to all.

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We learned a lesson about living from Mattie. In sickness or in health, our family’s heartfelt wish is that all people have peace, and that all people reach the end of suffering, and be free and forgiving of all other people.

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Our daughters’ favorite Mattie poem is On Growing Up (Part V)” (from Journey Through Heartsongs and also in Just Peace: A Message of Hope) because they see the world and all the different people as one and the same.

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We (Curt and Andrea) like the closing line from Mattie’s “I Could… If They Would” poem (from Journey Through Heartsongs) —

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“I could still be happy knowing that I was part of the effort.”

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How are you involved with Mattie’s Foundation?

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We are involved in Mattie’s Foundation because we truly understand the peace message Mattie conveyed to all people.

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After reading Mattie’s poetry books, and then reading Messenger (his biography written by his mom), we visited the website for Mattie’s Foundation. And we realized that we wanted peace for our daughter, and also peace for our world, and we wanted it to bring this peace to others through Mattie’s message.

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Mattie’s perseverance in spreading the peace message despite disability is inspiring. We do not want our children to grow up worried about war and fighting. We want to teach them tolerance, peace, understanding, global initiatives, and respect for peoples’ differences. We want our children to have compassion for those who may suffer different than we do.

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Peace Bringer Honoree, Reagan Smith, is beginning her “Teen Peace Journey” as a member of Mattie’s Peace Club Teens. “I want to earn service hours while I get to spread Mattie’s message,” she said. “Also, I hope my school approves being a Peace Certified school.”

To show our commitment to peace, and to help us keep learning more and more about peace for ourselves and our world, we joined Mattie’s Peace Club.

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We (Curt and Andrea) are VIP Peace Club members (Very Involved Peacemakers), and we gave “Grandpa” Bob Eyler the gift of member in Mattie’s Peace Club.

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Katie is an active Peace Club Kid who sends in artwork and peace posts. Reagan is a proud Peace Club Teen who is now beginning the Teen Peace Journey through Mattie’s Three Choices for Peace.

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Reagan also would like to become a Peace Certified Person, and Katie says she also wants to become Peace Certified when she gets a little stronger. As a family, would like to see Reagan’s school choose to become a Peace Certified Community.

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What else would you like to share?

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We were pleasantly surprised and honored and humbled that we were selected as Peace Bringers.

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We use to get mad or impatient with people who treated us differently because of Katie’s illness. Now, we have learned to live kinder, speak more gently, and forgive those for they know not what they are doing. When we forgive others, we forgive ourselves and let more love and light come into our life.

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We want to continue to create more awareness for people with disabilities. In the past, lobbying and protesting angrily through legislation seemed the right way to do this — but our attitudes and actions have changed.

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As Katie and others like her experience unpleasant sensations by being treated in a dismissive manner, instead of reacting with aversion we want to consciously move our thoughts and actions towards a state of loving-kindness, while trying to maintain a calm state of mind. We believe that being assertive, but not aggressive, is the best aspiration, and that awareness, understanding, and better treatment will result.

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Choosing peace, even when life is challenging, is what we want for our family, and what we want to teach our children. Look what Mattie did — it only took one person. Imagine what we can do as a family, and a world.

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Thank you,

Curt, Andrea, Reagan & Katie,

for being Peace Bringers.

Congratulations!

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(click on image to enlarge)

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To learn more about mitochondrial disease,

the Smith family suggests this website:

www.MitoAction.org

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To learn more about peace,

the Smith family suggests this website:

www.MattieOnline.com

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Return to Archived Spotlight page

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Return to Main Spotlight page

 

 

 

 

 

December Spotlight

In-Kind Support

Celebrating our "in kind" sponsors and advocates -- who support Mattie's Foundation with services and materials. Thank you ezStorage, Montgomery Printing, Parcel Plus, and Potomac Valley Brick! Read more...

Nourishment Support

Celebrating our "nourishment" sponsors and advocates -- who support Mattie's Foundation with food and services. Thank you Botanero Restaurant, Fontina Grille, Safeway, Coffee Republic, and Red Hot & Blue! Read more...

Community Support

Celebrating our "community" sponsors and advocates -- who support Mattie's Foundation with commitment and participation. Thank you City of Rockville, King Farm Citizen's Assembly, Kick's Karate & Mix 107.3! Read more...

Champion Support

Celebrating our "Foundation Champions" -- sponsors and volunteers of all ages who support Mattie's Foundation through donations, brick sponsorships, participation in our activities and events. Thank you!!! Read more...

- Mattie J.T. Stepanek