My name is Marco.
I live in New York with my Dad, Mom, my older sister, Gianna, my older brother, Luca, and my baby sister, Stella. My very favorite thing to do is to play the guitar. My dad bought me my first guitar when I turned 5 years old. He taught me how to hold it and where my fingers should go. Now I go to a music school and take classical guitar lessons. The school has this really neat, really huge room with a shiny wooden floor. That’s where we have our performance recitals. All my family, including my 2 grandmas and my grandpa, my aunts, uncles and some of my cousins, came to my last recital. It was really great!
There is something else I want to tell you about myself. When I talk, sometimes I get stuck on saying certain words. It’s called stuttering. For instance, I might want to say: “I’m going now, Mom.” And it will come out: “I’m going now, Mom-mom-mom.” Or “It’s his birthday party.” And it will come out: "It’s his birthday p-p-p-party.” Or “He hurt his mouth.” It will come out: “He hurt his m-------outh.”
My dad told me that he stuttered when he was little. He hardly ever stutters now but sometimes when he gets really tired he’ll stutter. I’m the only person in my family, besides Dad, who stutters. Dad told me that doctors have tried to figure out exactly why some people stutter but they don’t really know why for sure. Dad said that when he was 11 years old he taught himself to play the guitar. He would sit in his room for hours and sing and play. Every single day he would sing and over time his stuttering got better. He said that’s why he bought me my own guitar when he realized I stuttered too.
I really love playing my guitar and singing. I'm still stuttering. I think I'm a little better compared to when I first started though. I also have appointments with a really nice lady named Cindy every two weeks. Cindy is a speech therapist. Speech therapists help people who have trouble talking.
When I went to kindergarten, it was really hard for me. At first I talked just like I always did at home. When I was at home or with my cousins or with my neighborhood friends that I grew up with, nobody ever said anything bad about my stuttering. They just waited until I said what I had to say. It wasn’t really any big deal.
When I went to school for the first time, some of the kids would make fun of me. So I decided I would try my best not to talk at school. But almost everyday somebody would still make fun of me. They said things like: “He has bumps when he talks! Let’s call him BUMPY!” Then they would laugh and make stuttering sounds. Sometimes they would say that I’m dumb and stupid. This went on for a while. Because I never went to school before and I was only in kindergarten, I thought this is just how it is when you go to school.
Then one day when I was on the playground a kid who always made fun of me hit me hard in the face with a jump rope! I was so surprised! My face hurt so bad that I was kind of frozen in shock. When the bus driver dropped me back home after school that day, I finally told my mom what was happening. My lips and cheek had swelled up and looked pretty bad. Let’s just say that Mom was not happy! She called Dad. When he came home from work he told me that kid was a big bully. He told me not to pay any attention to the mean things the kids had said to me. Then he told me he would be calling my teacher that night to talk with her. But when he and Mom came to say night prayers with me and tuck me in, they said I didn’t have to go back to that school anymore and that Mom was going to homeschool me for the rest of kindergarten.
The next year I went to a new school for 1st grade. Most all of the kids at my new school are really nice. It’s the school I still go to. I’m in 5th grade now. On my first report card this year I had all A’s and 1 B. I told you this not to brag but to show you that people who stutter aren’t stupid.
One of my best friends is named Elijah Martin. Elijah is completely deaf in one ear and has to wear a hearing aid in the other ear. My mom says, “See, Marco! Everybody has something, big or little, that they have to deal with. Everybody has something! Don’t ever forget that.”
When I very first started at my new school, Dad came with me. He and I talked with my class about stuttering. First we watched a movie about kids who stutter. Then we told them:
1. Every person is unique. Each person has some things they can do well and things not as well.
2. It is estimated that 3 million people in America stutter. Some stutter a little bit and some a lot.
3. These are things you should know when you meet someone who stutters:
--- Listen to what they are saying.
--- Don’t make fun of them. Think of how you feel when someone makes fun of you.
--- It’s all right to ask questions about stuttering but please do it politely.
--- Treat a person who stutters just like everyone else.
--- No one should interrupt or finish words for anyone else.
Then I held up a poster that my brother helped me make. It said:
THINGS TO DO:
THINGS NOT TO DO:
Don’t look away.
Don’t say how to talk.
Don’t fill in words.
Don’t make fun.
Then some of the kids in my class asked us questions.
Elijah asked me, “How do you stutter?”
I showed him by asking our teacher, Sister Mary Catherine, a question.
“Sister M----------------Mary Catherine, can I get a drink?”
I told him sometimes I stretch a word and sometimes a word comes out two or three times.
When I said “I” it came out, “I-I-I sometimes stretch a word…”
The whole class understood.
Then a girl named Molly asked my dad when I started stuttering and what my family did to help me.
He told her I started stuttering when I was 3 years old and my family helped me by saying things slowly. They also listened carefully to what I said and not so much how I said it. He said that was the most important thing.
Later at recess some of the kids came up to me and told me that I did a really good job explaining about stuttering. I remember that made me feel really good!
This next part is true about EVERYBODY! I thought a lot about it and I think it’s so important that I’m going to write it in red.
Making fun of a person or bullying them is always wrong.
Jesus wants us to treat the people in our lives the way we would like to be treated.
Jesus said we are to love our neighbor like ourselves. Every single person, no matter what they look like or how they sound, is created in the image of God.
Every person deserves to be treated with respect.
Making fun of a person or being a bully is never okay. NEVER.
God wants us to honor Him by the way we use our words and how we act.
If you are someone who is being bullied, it is important that you tell your parents. I wish I had told mine sooner and not waited until I got hit in the face! If you are at school, you can tell your teacher. It isn’t tattling. Tattling is when you say it because you want that person to get in trouble. Telling something is different. You are telling it because something bad is happening and it needs to stop. Also, if you hear or see someone being bullied you should try to help that person. You should tell your teacher about it if it happens at school. You should always tell your parents too. Doing nothing helps mean people and bullies because it allows them to continue their bad behavior.
Dad told me that it’s important to forgive the people who hurt me even if they don’t say that they are sorry. He said that if I don’t decide in my head that I want to forgive them, and I let the hurt and anger stay locked up in my heart, then the bad words and actions win! He said THEY (the mean people) are the ones I should feel sorry for because THEY are the ones with the REAL problem! Dad told me Jesus wants us to forgive those who hurt us and He will help us.
My dad also told me that it is okay to stick up for myself. He said I could have pushed that bully kid down who hit me with a jump rope because, even if he got hurt from me doing that, I was defending myself.
My dad also told me that he and Mom decided to pull me out of that first school because I was so young and they were concerned for my safety. He said that in the future I might meet people who say or do hurtful things because of my stuttering and I might not be able to leave the situation. Even then, I still had to treat them as I would want to be treated. He told me he was also bullied because of his stuttering when he was a kid. But something very interesting happened. The one kid who was the meanest to my dad in grade school ended up being one of his best friends in high school! He said that he prayed an "Our Father" for that mean kid every single day for almost 4 years! Then when Dad was a freshman in high school he decided to join the choir. The choir teacher assigned the seats and Dad and the mean kid ended up sitting right next to each other! Over time they became friends. When that man got married he asked Dad to be the best man at his wedding!
I want to end my Catholic Kids 101 page with a story that my 5th grade teacher, Mr. Lee, read to my class during the period we study our Religion. I asked him for a copy of it so I could tell it to you.
Remember, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did it to me.” Matthew 25:40
Your Catholic Kids 101 friend,
Danny sat in the first pew in the dimly lit Church, staring at the flickering candle next to the golden tabernacle.
“Jesus, I’m really sorry.”
Danny felt terrible. He just wished this heavy, sick feeling in his heart would go away.
He turned and looked over towards the Confessional. He saw there were only two people left in the long line since he first arrived at Church nearly an hour ago. He slowly got up out of the pew and genuflected to Jesus in the golden tabernacle. Then he made his way to the Confession line, bringing up the rear.
Danny was still the very last person in line when the man ahead of him came out of the confessional. He noticed the light above the door went out. That meant the confessional was empty and it was his turn to go in.
Danny went in and closed the door. Then he knelt down on the kneeler. There was a little light above him just bright enough for him to see the Crucifix on his left side next to the window. Danny looked at Jesus hanging on the Cross.
“I’m sorry, Jesus,” he prayed.
Patiently he waited until Father was done hearing the Confession of the person in the confessional on the other side.
Finally, the little window opened and everything was quiet. Danny knew it was his turn to speak.
“Bless me, Father, for I have sinned,” began Danny as he made the Sign of the Cross. “It’s been about a month since my last Confession and my sins are…”
Danny paused. He knew exactly what he was sorry for and what he wanted to say and how he was going to say it. He knew he just had to simply say what his sins were but he was suddenly at a loss for words.
“Go ahead, son, don’t be afraid,” encouraged Father.
Danny knew that he didn’t need to tell Father all the details but it just started to spill out from his heart.
“Father, this morning a group of my friends and I were walking home from baseball practice when two boys about our age were walking towards us on the sidewalk. As they got closer we saw they were dressed in nice black suits and had little caps on their heads so we knew they were Jewish.
Danny paused and took a deep breath, “I don’t know exactly how it started. One of my friends said a smart comment and then we all laughed. Before I knew what was happening we started yelling at those boys. “Hey, nice hat!” someone said. Then another yelled something about pork. At the time it seemed funny. We were just trying to top each other to see who could get the biggest laugh.”
Danny continued, “As those boys came close to us, one of the guys grabbed the cap off the head of the boy nearest to us and started to wave it in the air. The boy tried to reach up and grab it back but then my friend yelled for me to catch it. I caught it and then threw it to another friend. The boy kept saying to us, 'Stop. Just give it back.' But we laughed and kept throwing it. Finally, it landed on the ground by his feet, squished and dirty. He bent down and picked it up. When he stood back up he looked straight at me.”
Danny felt hot tears suddenly come to his eyes.
Danny paused. “Father, I don’t know quite how to say this but when that boy looked at me…”
Danny paused again. He could hardly believe what he was saying but it was exactly what had happened.
“Father,” Danny whispered, “it was as if JESUS HIMSELF was looking at me.”
There was a moment of silence.
“Father, I’m really sorry for treating those boys that way. I will never ever do such a thing again. I’m sorry for all my sins.”
“First, let us thank God for the grace of a good Confession. You truly were given a very special grace today, son.”
Father paused then continued, “Jesus loves you very much. In a moment, I’m going to give you absolution. But before I do that, there is something I’d like to ask you. Do you remember when Jesus said in the Gospel of St. Matthew, ‘Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did it to Me?’
“Yes, Father,” answered Danny.
“We must try and see Christ in every person we meet. Apparently our Lord gave you a special grace to see Him when that young man looked at you. Remember, when we are kind and good to another, we are doing it to Him. When we are disrespectful and mean to another, we are hurting Christ.”
“Also, did you ever think that Jesus, just like those two boys, was Jewish?”
Danny thought a moment. “Well, I knew Jesus was born a Jew but I never connected that with the two boys.”
“Yes, Jesus was Jewish. Our Lady was Jewish. Good St. Joseph was Jewish. As followers of Christ we must think of the Jews as our “elder brothers.”
“I never realized that,” said Danny.
“The cap that those boys were wearing is called the kippah in Hebrew or a yarmulke in Yiddish. Jewish men wear those caps during their synagogue services or when they do religious activities like reading holy books. The boys you met were Orthodox Jews and they keep their heads covered all the time. Today is Saturday and they were going to the synagogue not too far from here. Those boys wear their caps because it reminds them that there is never a moment in the day when they are not in the presence of Almighty God.”
“Wow!” exclaimed Danny. “That is really interesting. Gee, I really wish I wouldn’t have thrown that boy’s cap.”
“The wonderful thing about the Sacrament of Confession is that you will walk out of here a new man. It will be a brand new start.”
Father paused and thought a moment. “Son, I assume you own your own a Bible.”
“Yes, Father. I use it for my religion class at school. It’s on my desk at home in my bedroom.”
“Good. For your penance I want you to do two things. The first thing is when you leave the confessional, I want you to sit in the pew before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and pray two Our Fathers. I want you to offer your prayers for those two Jewish boys, one for each boy. Ask Jesus to heal any hurts your encounter with them may have caused.
“Yes, Father,” said Danny.
“The other thing I want you to do is when you go home, open up your Bible to the New Testament and find 2Corinthians. In there St. Paul says that we are to be “Ambassadors for Christ.” I want you to find that part, read it and then think about it. Generally speaking an ambassador is a respected person chosen to represent a country. They go to a foreign land as a representative of the country that sent them. St. Paul calls us to be “Ambassadors for Christ.”
Father continued, “As you grow up, you will encounter people who do not know Our Lord Jesus. The only encounter they may ever have of Him is through you. Jesus wants you to be an ambassador for Him so when people meet you, they will meet the One who sent you. They’ll meet Jesus. Always strive to be His good ambassador. Do you understand?”
“Yes, Father!” Danny exclaimed, “I understand.”
“Now make an Act of Contrition and I will give you absolution.”
“Oh my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended You, and I detest all my sins because I dread the loss of Heaven and the pains of Hell, but most of all because I have offended You, my God, who are all good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of Your grace, to confess my sins, to do penance and to amend my life. Amen.”
Then Father gave Danny absolution:
“God the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of His Son, has reconciled the world to Himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins; through the ministry of the Church may God give you pardon and peace, and I absolve you from your sins in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
Then Father said, “Go in peace.”
“Thank you, Father!”
Father was right. Danny walked out of the confessional a new man. That terrible feeling in his heart was completely gone! He felt so light and peaceful. He went to the pew and did his penance, never taking his eyes off the golden tabernacle. And when He was done he whispered, “Thank You, Jesus.”
He got up out of the pew and genuflected with his right knee. He walked to the door, dipped his finger in the Holy Water and made the Sign of the Cross. He opened up the door and then paused. He turned and looked again towards the sanctuary and whispered, “And Jesus, please help me to be a good ambassador for You.”
Then Danny walked home, whistling the whole way.