WE ARE ONE

Lasha Morningstar

October 7, 2013

The wisdom of a child. Such a wisdom allows a four-year-old to confront a terrorist rampaging through a Kenyan shopping centre, telling him, "You are a bad man." Such courage.

Would that one could scrub the scarred, besieged thoughts and emotions from their psyche with this child's crystal clear vision of the world. Refreshed and restored, we could see life as it is, not as we want or believe it to be.

Craig Kielburger did. He and his brother Marc were recently honoured with a star on Canada's Walk of Fame. It would be easy to miss their award given the more recognizable honourees - actors Alan Thicke and Victor Garber, jazz pianist Oscar Peterson.

But Craig was just 12 when he read the Toronto Star's story about Iqbal Masih who had been sold into slavery as a carpet weaver at age four. Craig knew this was wrong, rallied his Grade 7 classmates and so Free the Children was born.

Mattie Stepanek, who died in 2004 after battling a rare form of muscular dystrophy, is pictured with one of his five best-selling books of poetry.

CNS PHOTO | COURTESY MUSCULAR DYSTROPHY ASSOCIATION

Mattie Stepanek, who died in 2004 after battling a rare form of muscular dystrophy, is pictured with one of his five best-selling books of poetry.

The aim of the Ontario children was to free the world's children from poverty and exploitation.

As the story and Free the Children gained strength and media attention, an interview was held with Craig's parents. Raised in a devout Roman Catholic home, Craig's mother was asked what they did to inspire such a child. She just shook her head and turned all accolades back to her son.

Craig's brother Marc joined in his humanitarian efforts in their international charity. Now in their 20's, the brothers and their 1.7 million youth volunteers count schools in Haiti, Sierra Leone and Kenya, plus educational and development programs in North America, among their achievements.

The committed duo also founded a for-profit company - Me to We - that sells socially responsible products. Much of the profit goes back to Free the Children.

CHILD SLAVERY

All of this would not have happened if 12-year-old Craig, all those years ago had not heard the cry of that Pakistani child slaving over a carpet loom.

Heaven is for real tells the story of Colton Burpo, then four, who told his parents he left his body during surgery for an emergency appendectomy.

CNS

Heaven is for Real tells the story of Colton Burpo, then four, who told his parents he left his body during surgery for an emergency appendectomy.

Sometimes it takes a child's old soul voice to touch those swamped in their weary lives. Such was Mattie Stepanek. He was such an unlikely mentor. Mattie was trapped in a body riddled with dysautonomic mitochondrial myopathy - a rare form of muscular dystrophy. Yet this boy spoke with an authority and knowingness that attracted media stars like Oprah and Larry King.

Mattie, who found peace in his Catholic faith, shared his poetic message of kindness, being gentle, trusting of everyone living their unique heartsong.

As he told Larry King on Larry King Live, "A heartsong is your inner beauty. It's you inner message. It's what you feel you want to do. In my case, my heartsong is to hear my heartsong and help others to hear theirs as well. And teaching heartsongs does not mean this is my heartsong. Now it is yours.

"Everyone has a different heartsong and the differences are what make them beautiful. We are a mosaic of gifts. And we need to choose to put those pieces together, not spread them apart."

Craig Kielburger has worked to improve conditions for young people around the world.

CNS PHOTO | COURTESY FREE THE CHILDRENt

Craig Kielburger has worked to improve conditions for young people around the world.

Mattie's Heartsong books hit The New York Times bestseller lists. His illness finally claimed him at age 14, in 2004. The books, music and Mattie's message, timeless in their relevance, live on.

VISIT TO HEAVEN

Another child, Colton Burpo, went to heaven when he was four and came back to tell his parents Heaven Is For Real. The wee lad's compelling story is told in a book co-written by Colton's dad Todd and New York Times' writer Lynn Vincent. (This book was discussed in St. Thomas More Parish's Sharing Circle.)

A misdiagnosed burst appendix poisoned the Nebraska boy's abdomen and he hovered near death. Months later, after Colton recovered, he began to tell what he saw in heaven. The information came in the briefest of snippets, usually stopping mother Sonja and Todd in their tracks.

BECOME LIKE LITTLE CHILDREN

They tested the veracity of their younger son's snapshots of heaven and came to realize his experiences were true. Colton has been to heaven.

His part-time pastor father finally, seven years later, shared his son's heaven story. The easy-to-read book is down to earth with facts for people ready to know them. As Colton says, when asked what he wants people to know, "I want them to know heaven is for real."

Three different messages from children – messages for those with the desire to absorb them into their daily journey.

As Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 18.3).

(Lasha Morningstar lasha@wcr.ab.ca)