Written by Robert Kirwan
following articles were written during 2000 and were published in
The Vision Paper.
your convenience I have provided you with the titles along with the
date of publication. I plan to include a brief introduction under
each title in the near future. The articles appear in the order in
which they are listed, so when you see one that interests you,
simply scroll down until you find it.
you have any comments, please send them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Make Any New Year's Resolutions This Year! Make Some New Year's
Perfect Gift (Dec.20)
Are Never Any Mistakes In Life ... Just Detours (Dec.13)
Don’t Ask Why? Just
Accept That Everything Happens For A Reason! (Dec.6)
Daddy, When Will
My Fingers Grow Back? (Nov.29)
Potatoes Heavy?' (Nov.22)
Can't Direct The Wind But You Can Adjust The Sails (Nov.15)
Price of A Miracle - One Dollar and Eleven Cents (Nov.8)
Pause To Remember An Old Friend (Nov.1)
Mighty Oak Was Once A Little Nut That Stood Its Ground" (Oct.25)
Payment For Kindness (Oct.18)
You Turned A Life Around Today? (Oct.11)
The Eyes of The Beholder, Things To Be Truly Thankful For (Oct.4)
Respect is 'Caught' not 'Taught', But Who Is Doing The Throwing?
We Never Be Too Busy To Respond With Kindness And Compassion To Strangers (Sept.20)
Is Something You Can't Escape, Coping With Change Is Critical (Sept.13)
Love Your Family As You Would Love
A Stranger (Sept.6)
Really Matters In Life... People, Not Objects (Aug.30)
To Keep Our Most Valuable Resources (Aug.23)
Wake Up And See That Your Dreams Have
Already Come True (Aug.16)
||REFLECTIONS by Robert Kirwan
December 27, 2000
Don't Make Any New Year's Resolutions This Year! Make Some
New Year's Realizations!
are about to begin the ‘Real Millennium’ in a few days. Yes, I am
afraid I have to inform you that the past year was nothing more than a
‘Computer Millennium’ generated by the fact that computers all over
the world had to be prepared for the date change from the 1900's to the
2000's. In actual fact, according to many historians around the world,
January 1, 2001, finally marks the beginning of the 1st year
of the third millennium.
that in mind, most of us will be busy trying to make some meaningful New
Year’s Resolutions which are designed to help us improve our life and
motivate us to greater things during the next 12 months. This year
however, I ask you to do something a bit different. Instead of coming up
with New Year’s Resolutions, I want you to come up with New Year’s
thank Simon Guillet of Guilletville for sending me an article he
received over the email from a friend. As you read the following, which
is taken from Simon’s submission along with another I already had on
file, see if you can make any ‘New Year’s Realizations’ about your
Even though I clutch my blanket and
growl when the alarm rings, I realize that I can hear. There are many
who are deaf.
Even though I keep my eyes closed
against the morning light, I realize I can see. There are many who are
Even though I huddle in my bed and put
off rising, I realize that I have the strength to rise. There are many
who are bedridden.
Even though the first hour of my day is
hectic, when socks are lost, toast is burned, tempers are short and the
children are loud, I realize that I have a family. There are many who
Even though the breakfast table never
looks like the pictures in magazines and the menu is at times
unbalanced, I realize that we have food to eat. There are many who are
Even though the routine of my job is
often monotonous, I realize I have the opportunity to work. There are
many who have no job.
Even though I have a teenager who is
not doing dishes but is watching TV, I realize he/she is at home. There
are many who are out on the streets.
Even though I grumble about the taxes I
have to pay, I realize it means I have an income. There are many who do
Even though I have to clean up after a
party, I realize it means I have been surrounded by friends. There are
many who have no friends.
Even though my clothes fit a little too
snug, I realize it means I have had enough to eat. There are many who go
hungry every day.
Even though I complain about my lawn
that needs mowing, my windows that need cleaning and my gutters that
need fixing, I realize I have a home. There are many who are homeless.
Even though I complain a lot about the
government, I realize I have the freedom of speech. There are many in
this world who are afraid to express their opinion.
Even though I have a huge heating bill,
I realize it means I am warm. There are many who cannot afford heat.
Even though the pile of laundry seems
never ending, I realize I have clothes to wear. There are those who have
very little clothing.
Even though it seems as if I often take
my family members for granted, I realize how fortunate I am to have
people around who love me despite my personal failings. There are those
who never experience love.
all have so much to be thankful for, but life is so hectic that we often
fail to realize just what we do have. We are always wishing for
something better. We are always trying to improve our lot in life.
Perhaps if we just took the time to make some ‘New Year’s
Realizations’ over the next couple of days, we will stop chasing
rainbows for the pot of gold and discover that the real treasure is
right here in front of us.
a Very Happy New Year!
The Perfect Gift
|Christmas is my favourite time of the year! It
is also the time of the year I hate the most! I love getting together
with family and friends and enjoying their company over meals, parties
and other festivities. But I hate the commercial aspects of Christmas.
Everybody rushes around the stores trying to buy something to ‘give’
to people on their list. In many cases the only objective is to make
sure that you can put some gift under the tree because they are getting
The ‘Perfect Gift’ is so elusive today.
However, I came across a beautiful story the other day which really
touched me deeply. I think you will agree that the story has a powerful
Smith’s husband, Mike
hated Christmas. Oh, not the true meaning of Christmas, but the
commercial aspects of it. You know, the overspending, the frantic
running around at the last minute to get a tie for Uncle Harry and the
dusting powder for Grandma - the gifts given in desperation because you
couldn’t think of anything else.
he felt this way, Norma decided one year to bypass the usual shirts,
sweaters, ties and so forth. She reached for something special just for
Mike. The inspiration came in an unusual way.
son, Kevin, who was 12 that year, was wrestling at the junior level at
the school he attended. Shortly before Christmas, there was a non-league
match against a team sponsored by an inner city church.
youngsters from the inner city, dressed in sneakers so ragged that the
shoestrings seemed to be the only thing holding them together, presented
a sharp contrast to Kevin’s team mates in their spiffy blue and gold
uniforms and sparkling new wrestling shoes.
the match began, both Norma and Mike were alarmed to see that the other
team was wrestling without head gear, a kind of light helmet designed to
protect a wrestler’s ears. It was a luxury the ragtag team obviously
couldn’t afford. Well, Kevin’s team ended up walloping them. They
took every weight class. As each of the boys got up from the mat, he
swaggered around in this tatters with false bravado - a kind of street
pride that couldn’t acknowledge defeat.
seated beside Norma, shook his head sadly, “I wish just one of them
could have won. They have a lot of potential, but losing like this could
take the heart right out of them.”
loved kids-all kids. He understood kids in competitive situations,
having coached little league baseball, football and lacrosse. That’s
when the idea came to Norma for his present.
afternoon, Norma went to a local sporting goods store and bought an
assortment of wrestling headgear and shoes and sent them anonymously to
the inner city church. On Christmas Eve, Norma placed an envelope on the
tree. The note inside told Mike what she had done and that this was her
gift to him. His smile was the brightest thing about Christmas that year
and in each of the succeeding years. For each Christmas, Norma followed
the tradition. One year she sent a group of mentally challenged
youngsters to a hockey game. Another year a check to a pair of elderly
brothers whose home had burned to the ground the week before Christmas.
And so on...
envelope became the highlight of their Christmas. It was always the last
thing opened on Christmas morning and their children, ignoring their new
toys, would stand with wide-eyed anticipation as their dad lifted the
envelope from the tree to reveal its contents.
the children grew, the toys gave way to more practical presents, but the
envelope never lost its allure.
year that Mike lost his battle to cancer, Norma was so wrapped up in
grief that when Christmas finally rolled around, she barely got the tree
up. Yet Christmas Eve found her placing an envelope on the tree, and in
the morning it was joined by three more. Each of their children,
unbeknownst to the others, had placed an envelope on the tree for their
tradition has grown and someday will expand even further with Norma’s
and Mike’s grandchildren standing around the tree with wide-eyed
anticipation, watching their fathers take down their envelopes.
spirit, like the spirit of Christmas, will always be with the family.
May all of my readers be fortunate enough to find the Spirit of
Christmas this year, and may it always be with your family!
a good week!
December 13, 2000
Are Never Any Mistakes In Life ... Just Detours
|Isn’t it funny how the little
things you do for someone are often the most appreciated? You can buy
your spouse a very expensive gift for Christmas or a birthday, but if
you give some small token of love completely out of the blue for no
reason at all, your loved one acts as if it is the nicest thing you have
ever done. Christmas is a time for showing people in our life just how
much we care for them...not with the size of a gift, but just with any
type of gift...even the gift of our presence for a nice visit during the
I heard a story the other day
about a couple, named Kathy and Don, who moved into a new house during
the summer. Kathy had the pleasure during the next several months to
meet a few of her neighbours who seemed to be extremely nice people. For
Christmas, she thought she would do something nice for each of the
neighbours that she knew. She sat down and counted. There were nine
neighbours whom she knew by name or spoke with often when out in her
yard. She also knew which houses they lived in.
Kathy then decided to add one
more person to her list for a total of ten. The tenth person was a lady
who lived down the street. She met the lady every morning walking to
work as she drove down the street. She always managed a contagious smile
and a hearty wave. She had no idea what the mystery lady’s name was
and was not even sure which house she lived in.
Kathy’s gift idea was to make
small fruit baskets and leave them on each of her neighbour’s front
porches or door steps the night of Christmas Eve for them to find,
either that night or the next morning. She signed the cards: “Happy
Holidays from 5104 Northumberland Road.”
Kathy saved the friendly lady
for last, since she was still not exactly sure where she lived. Finally,
Kathy decided upon a house down about where she met her each morning and
felt relatively sure that it was hers.
Her neighbours really
appreciated the baskets and would thank Kathy as they saw her in the
yard or they would call, and a couple even came by to thank her in
One morning on her way to work,
Kathy noticed a small note inside her mailbox. It was addressed simply,
Resident, 5104 Northumberland Road. She opened the envelope and took out
a Thank You card. She opened the card and read the message, which really
caught her by surprise.
The card said, “Thank you for
the lovely fruit basket you left on the porch of Richard Kelly. It was
very thoughtful. Richard Kelly passed away on January 19, but he never
stopped talking about how nice it was that someone remembered him in his
time of illness. He really appreciated it.”
Kathy was sincerely stunned. She
had no idea who Richard Kelly was or that he had been gravely ill. She
had left that nice lady’s basket on Mr. Kelly’s porch by accident.
Kathy firmly believed that Richard Kelly was meant to have that basket
and the Lord knew that he only had less than a month to live. She was
sorry that the nice lady did not get to receive a fruit basket from her
that Christmas, but was sure that she would understand if she ever found
out what had happened.
Kathy felt blessed to have
helped Richard Kelly’s last days be more cheerful. It further
reinforced her belief that there are never any mistakes in life...just
detours, shortcuts, and small excursions along the way.
This Christmas, make a list of
the acquaintances you know and see if there isn’t something you can do
to make their holidays just a little bit brighter. See if there are any
people on the list who may be having some difficulties in their life and
who could use some cheering up. Remember, it is not so much the gift
that counts as it is the thought that someone cares about you. And next
time you feel your life is not heading in the right direction, just
remember that there are never any mistakes in life...just detours.
Have a good week!
Ask Why? Just Accept That Everything Happens For A Reason!
|Every now and then you come across a classic story that leaves a lasting
impression. The story I am about to share with you is a true story about
a person by the name of Pastor Rob Reid. I want to thank Theresa
Taillefer, a friend and parent of one of my students, for sending me the
story. It is one which my readers are sure to appreciate and one which
proves that everything in our life happens for a reason. We may not
fully understand why at the time, but the true meaning usually comes out
in the end. I would suggest that you have kleenex handy when you read
“The brand new pastor and his wife, newly assigned to their first
ministry, to reopen a church in suburban Brooklyn, arrived in early
October excited about the opportunities. When they saw their Church, it
was very run down and needed much work. They set a goal to have
everything done in time to have their first service on Christmas Eve.
They worked hard, repairing pews, plastering walls, painting, etc. and
on December 18 were ahead of schedule and just about finished. On
December 19 a terrible tempest - a driving rainstorm - hit the area and
lasted for two days. On the 21st, the pastor went over to the
church. His heart sank when he saw that the roof had leaked, causing a
large area of plaster about 20 feet by 8 feet to fall off the wall of
the sanctuary just behind the pulpit, beginning about head high. The
pastor cleaned up the mess on the floor, and not knowing what else to do
but postpone the Christmas Eve service, headed home. On the way he
noticed that a local business was having a flea market type sale for
charity so he stopped in. One of the items was a beautiful, handmade,
ivory coloured, crocheted table cloth with exquisite work, fine colours
and a Cross embroidered right in the centre. It was just the right size
to cover up the hole in the front wall. He bought it and headed back to
the church. By this time it had started to snow. An older woman running
from the opposite direction was trying to catch the bus. She missed it.
The pastor invited her to wait in the warm church for the next bus 45
minutes later. She sat in a pew and paid no attention to the pastor
while he got a ladder, hangers, etc., to put up the tablecloth as a wall
The pastor could hardly believe how beautiful it looked and it covered
up the entire problem area. Then he noticed the woman walking down the
centre aisle, her face was like a sheet. “Pastor,” she asked,
“Where did you get that tablecloth?”
The pastor explained.
The woman asked him to check the lower right hand corner to see if the
initials, EBG were crocheted into it there. They were. These were the
initials of the woman, and she had made this tablecloth 35 years before
in Austria. The woman could hardly believe it as the pastor told how he
had just gotten the tablecloth. The woman explained that before the war
she and her husband were well-to-do people in Austria. When the Nazi
came, she was forced to leave. Her husband was going to follow her the
next week. She was captured, sent to prison and never saw her husband or
her home again. The pastor wanted to give her the tablecloth; but she
made the pastor keep it for the church. The pastor insisted on driving
her home. That was the least he could do. She lived on the other side of
Staten Island and was only in Brooklyn for the day for a house cleaning
What a wonderful service they had on Christmas Eve. The church was
almost full. The music and the spirit were great. At the end of the
service, the pastor and his wife greeted everyone at the door and many
said that they would return. One older man, whom the pastor recognized
from the neighbourhood, continued to sit in one of the pews and stare,
and the pastor wondered why he wasn’t leaving. The man asked him where
he got the tablecloth on the front wall because it was identical to the
one that his wife had made years ago when they lived in Austria before
the war and how could there be two tablecloths so much alike?
He told the pastor how the Nazi came; how he forced his wife to flee for
her safety; and how he was supposed to follow her. But he was arrested
and put in a prison. He never saw his wife or his home again in all of
the 35 years in between. The pastor asked him if he would allow him to
take him for a little ride. They drove to Staten Island and to the same
house where the pastor had taken the woman three days earlier. He helped
the man climb the three flights of stairs to the woman’s apartment,
knocked on the door and he saw the greatest Christmas reunion he could
Everything happens for a reason. Don’t waste your time questioning
fate. Just accept it and let life unfold as it was intended. Above all,
allow yourself to see the beautiful things that fate brings to us every
Have a good week!
November 29, 2000
Daddy, When Will My Fingers Grow Back?
|Over the many years of my life I have tried to follow one very important
rule: Never, ever do or say anything out of anger!
I have coached various teams; I have taught elementary school for 27
years; I have been involved in collective bargaining for over 20 years;
and in my most important role, I have been a husband and a father for
over 25 years. In all of that time and through all of the experiences
that those roles have lead, I have tried my best to follow that one
Never allow yourself to lose due to anger.
This does not mean that you are to go around being passive and allowing
others to run all over you. People - especially students and former
athletes - will certainly be quick to tell you that I can demonstrate
anger as well as the next person.
The secret is that you must never do anything because you are angry. You
can show others that you are not pleased with their behaviour and you
can certainly appear to be very upset, but deep down inside you must
always maintain control of that temper. An angry tone can be used for
effect, but it should never be allowed to dictate your own actions. When
you do things out of anger, you often regret your actions or your words
later, when it is too late to do anything about it.
Let me share a story with you about what can happen when you lose
control of your emotions and act out of intense anger..
One day a man was working in the garage on his brand new truck. He was
polishing it and examining all parts of the engine, under the vehicle
and inside. It was obvious that he was very proud of this new vehicle.
His three-year old son was watching curiously. The man went into the
house for something and when he returned he saw his son happily
hammering dents into the side of the shiny paint. The man screamed at
the little boy and knocked him to the side. He was so upset that he
picked up his son and threw him through the open doorway into the house.
He then turned in disgust and slammed the door behind him. The man heard
a painful scream behind him and when he turned he saw the tiny fingers
of his son caught in door. When the man calmed down, he rushed his son
to the hospital.
The doctors tried desperately to save the crushed bones, but it was no
use. They finally had to amputate the fingers from the boy’s hand.
When the boy woke up from the surgery and saw his bandaged stubs, he
innocently said, “Daddy, I’m sorry about your truck.”
Then he asked, “But when are my fingers going to grow back?”
The father then went home and committed suicide.
Think about this story the next time you see someone spill milk at the
dinner table or hear a baby crying. Think first before you lose your
patience with someone you love. Trucks can be repaired. Broken bones and
hurt feelings often can’t.
Too often we fail to recognize the difference between the person and the
performance. People make mistakes. We are all allowed to make mistakes.
But the actions we take while in a rage will haunt us forever.
Learn to walk away from situations when you feel your anger will cloud
your judgement. Deal with the matter when you have calmed down.
Remember, it is perfectly fine to appear angry for effect. But you must
always be in control of what you are saying and what you are doing. And
you must always be aware of the goals and objectives you are seeking
through your actions. Direct your attention to the behaviour, not the
person. As soon as you make it personal, you have lost.
Anger only lasts for a few moments, but the repercussions can last a
Have a good week!
November 22, 2000
'Are Your Potatoes Heavy?'
|I admire people who can get their message across in the fewest number of
words possible. Brevity, however, is not one of my greatest skills.
Anyone who knows me well realizes that the word ‘short’ does not
enter into the picture when it comes to conversation. So you can imagine
how impressed I was when I came across a little story written by M.
Stanley Bubien, entitled, ‘The Unhappiest Man Who Ever Lived’.
I hope you enjoy the story.
Isn’t that one of the most powerful stories you have ever read?
What a message!
Let me tell you the story again.
Yes, these are definitely the words one would expect to be spoken by
‘The Unhappiest Man Who Ever Lived”. Do you know him? Have you ever
To further illustrate the message of this wonderful story, let me share
with you another short passage I came across recently. The author of
this story is unknown, but I am sure each of us in our own small way can
identify with the moral.
The story is entitled, ‘Are Your Potatoes Heavy?’
“A college teacher once told each of her adult students to bring a
clear plastic bag and a sack of potatoes to school. For every person
they refuse to forgive in their life’s experience, they chose a
potato, wrote on it the name and date, and put it in the plastic bag.
Some of their bags were quite heavy.
They were then told to carry this bag with them everywhere for one week,
putting it beside their bed at night, on the car seat when driving, next
to their desk at work, at the dinner table, etc.
The hassle of lugging this bag of potatoes around with them made it
clear what a weight they were carrying spiritually, and how they had to
pay attention to it all the time. Naturally, the condition of the
potatoes deteriorated to a nasty smelly slime. This was a great metaphor
for the price we pay for keeping our pain and heavy negativity! Too
often we think of forgiveness as a gift to the other person, and it
clearly is for ourselves.”
It is quite common in our society today to blame others for our
problems. When this becomes a personal habit, we tend to blame others
for our anger, frustration, depression, stress and unhappiness. If
something is missing, someone else must have moved it; if your marriage
did not work out, it was your spouse’s fault; if you lose your job, it
was your employer who was to blame; and so on.
Personal happiness and peace cannot be achieved as long as you are
blaming others. In order to be at peace with yourself, you must accept
responsibility for your own actions and for your reactions to others
around you. The breakup of a marriage, for example, can generate plenty
of anger and hatred. In order to be free to go on with life, each spouse
must find it in their heart to forgive and avoid blaming each other for
the breakup. To carry on the hatred is like carrying around a bag of
potatoes. Until you forgive the person and get rid of the potato, it
will be a burden on your life and will follow you wherever you go.
Forgiving your spouse, therefore, is not so much a gift for your spouse,
but a gift to yourself so that you can rid yourself of this heavy burden
and not allow it to consume so much of your life.
Blaming others is very stressful and takes a tremendous amount of mental
energy. It also leaves you powerless over your own life in that you soon
feel that your own happiness is controlled by the actions of others.
When you stop blaming others, you will regain control of your personal
power and take charge of your own happiness. You will also find that
life is much more fun when you stop blaming others and forgive them for
what they have done.
So, next time you think you are so angry that you feel you can never
forgive someone, remember the story about ‘The Unhappiest Man Who Ever
Lived’. Get rid of your potatoes and enjoy life.
Have a good week!
You Can't Direct The Wind But You Can Adjust The Sails
|My teaching career has undergone several major
changes in recent months. For the past nine years I have been
representing the members of my local bargaining unit as their Union
President. Differences of opinion with my provincial association in June
have resulted in my subsequent removal from that office.
When it came down to a decision over whether the needs of my
local members should outweigh the needs of the province, I stood firm in
my conviction to represent my colleagues and friends and to do
everything possible to protect their best interests. Unfortunately, that
loyalty to my local members has resulted in an upheaval in my
professional and personal life - however, I do not regret the course of
action I took in that I have always felt that the faith my fellow
teachers placed in me was something that I would not risk losing,
regardless of the consequences.
As I was feeling sorry for myself and
wondering how I would cope with the problems I was facing, I stepped
back and took a good look around. My wife
and I are in relatively good health; I still have my job; my
children are healthy and off to a great beginning in their respective
career paths; I am under a lot less stress now that I no longer have the
responsibilities that came along with the union position; I have more
time to take long walks; I am getting back into coaching a men’s
slo-pitch team; and, I find that my friends have stood behind me despite
what the provincial association has done.
It was at that point I realized that I really
didn’t have a problem at all. What seemed to be a situation that I may
not be able to handle actually turned out to be something that has
actually improved my quality of life. It is as if all of the good things
that were waiting to happen to me couldn’t happen until a major change
occurred in my life. I was missing the many blessings of my life because
I was too consumed with everything that was happening to me.
I am sure that many of my readers are going
through the very same thing. As a matter of fact, I am convinced that we
all go through this type of experience many times during our time here
on earth. It is our response to these
life changing situations which not only make us stronger as individuals,
but also more aware of those around us who need someone to reach out to
them and help them get through their own troubles. I know that my own
personal faith - faith that life is what you make of it and that we are
never given a challenge that is too big to handle -
has been strengthened as a result of my experiences.
To further reinforce my feelings, I stumbled
upon a little passage this morning that I want to share with you.
|“If life happens to deliver a situation to
you that you feel you cannot handle, simply put it in perspective
and let it resolve itself.|
|If you find yourself stuck in traffic, don’t
despair. There are people in this world for whom driving is an
unheard of privilege.|
|If you find yourself having a bad day at work,
think of the person who has been out of work for years.|
|If you despair over a relationship gone bad,
think of the person who has never known what it’s like to love and
be loved in return.|
|If you grieve the passing of another weekend,
think of the person in dire straits, working twelve hours a day,
seven days a week to put food on the table.|
|If your car breaks down, leaving you miles
away from assistance, think of the paraplegic who would love the
opportunity to take that walk.|
|If you notice a gray hair in the mirror, think
of the cancer patient who wishes she had hair to examine.|
|If you find yourself at a loss and pondering
what is life all about, asking what is my purpose? Be thankful.
There are those who didn’t live long enough to get the opportunity
to ask those questions.|
|If you find yourself the victim of other
people’s bitterness, ignorance, smallness or insecurities,
remember things could be worse. You could be one of them.”|
So the next time you feel down about life,
just remember, “You can’t direct the wind, but you can adjust the
sails.” There is nothing you can’t handle with a little faith, and
eventually you will experience something good that would never have
happened were it not for the problems you faced in the past.
Have a good week!
November 8, 2000
The Price of A Miracle,
One Dollar and Eleven Cents
now and then we all run into problems in our life where we feel the only
way out is through a miracle. Life is like that! It throws you a curve
just when you least expect it and the challenge seems insurmountable.
Usually, we manage to work our way through our problems and get on with
our life. Often, however, we can’t explain just how we managed to
overcome our trials and tribulations. For some of us, the answer
actually comes in the form of the
miracle we were hoping for. I’m sure you will enjoy the story I found
on the internet this week. It speaks of one such miracle.
was a precocious eight year old when she heard her Mom and Dad talking
about her little brother, Andrew. All she knew was that he was very sick
and they were completely our of money. They were moving to an apartment
complex next month because Daddy didn’t have the money for the doctor
bills and the house. Only a very costly surgery could save Andrew now
and it was looking like there was no-one who would loan them the money.
heard her Daddy say to her tearful mother, with whispered desperation,
“Only a miracle can save him now.”
went to her bedroom and pulled a glass jelly jar from its hiding place
in the closet. She poured all the change out on the floor and counted it
carefully. She then placed the coins back in the jar and slipped out the
back door, making her way six blocks to the nearest drug store.
waited patiently for the pharmacist to give her some attention but he
was too busy at this moment. Tess twisted her feet to make a scuffing
noise. Nothing! She cleared her throat with the most disgusting sound
she could muster. No good.
she took a quarter from her jar and banged it on the glass counter. That
what do you want?” the pharmacist asked in an annoyed tone of voice.
“I’m busy talking to my brother from Chicago whom I haven’t seen
I want to talk to you about my brother,” Tess answered back in the
same annoyed tone. “He’s really, really sick...and I want to buy a
beg your pardon?” said the pharmacist.
name is Andrew and he has something bad growing inside his head and my
Daddy says only a miracle can save him now. So how much does a miracle
don’t sell miracles here, little girl. I’m sorry I can’t help
you,” the pharmacist said, softening a little.
I have the money to pay for it. If it isn’t enough, I will get the
rest. Just tell me how much it costs,” pleaded Tess.
pharmacist’s brother was a well dressed man. He stooped down and asked
the little girl, “What kind of a miracle does your brother need?”
don’t know,” Tess replied with her eyes welling up. “I just know
he’s really sick and Mommy says he needs an operation. But my Daddy
can’t pay for it, so I want to use my money.”
much do you have?” asked the man from Chicago.
dollar and eleven cents,” Tess answered barely audibly. “And it’s
all the money I have, but I can get some more if I need to.”
what a coincidence,” smiled the man. “A dollar and eleven
cents...the exact price of a miracle for little brothers.” He took the
money in one hand and with the other hand he grasped her mitten and
said, “Take me to where you live. I want to see your brother and meet
your parents. Let’s see if I have the kind of miracle you need.”
well dressed man was Dr. Carlton Armstrong, a surgeon, specializing in
neuro-surgery. The operation was completed without charge and it
wasn’t long until Andrew was home again and doing well. Mom and Dad
were happily talking about the chain of events that had led them to this
surgery,” her Mom whispered. “Was a real miracle. I wonder how much
it would have cost?”
smiled. She knew exactly how much a miracle cost...one dollar and eleven
cents...plus the faith of a little child.
all experience hardships in life. But we also experience miracles. The
trouble is that we often fail to recognize the miracles that come our
way as we focus only on our problems. If we could only have the faith of
a little child, and if we could only learn to recognize the miracles
that occur in our life. Miracles need not be major earth shattering
events. Miracles may actually be of the one dollar and eleven cent
variety. But no matter what the cost, you can rest assured that miracles
do happen, and when they come, they make a real difference in your life.
a good week.
||REFLECTIONS by Robert Kirwan
November 1, 2000
Let's Pause To Remember An Old Friend
I was younger I often thought of retirement as a time to see the world
and get involved in some of the activities I never seem to have time
for. Now, only a few years away from that wonderful stage of life, I
find myself longing to go deep into the woods where I can enjoy the rest
of my days away from the rest of this crazy world. Just when you think
you have heard it all, you pick up a newspaper or watch a news broadcast
and give your head another shake at the absolutely senseless things that
people are doing to each other. What is happening? What ever happened to
recent article I came across helped me put everything into perspective,
and I am sure my readers will find it helpful in understanding why the
world is developing as it is. I do not know who first wrote the passage,
but I think I know how he/she was feeling.
we are mourning the passing of an old friend by the name of Common
Sense. Common Sense lived a long life but died from heart failure at the
brink of the millennium. No one really knows how old he was since his
birth records were long ago lost in bureaucratic red tape. He selflessly
devoted his life to service in schools, hospitals, homes, factories and
offices, helping folks get jobs done without fanfare and foolishness.
decades, petty rules, silly laws and frivolous lawsuits held no power
over Common Sense. He was credited with cultivating such valued lessons
as to know when to come in out of the rain; the early bird gets the
worm; and life isn’t always fair. Common Sense lived by simple, sound
financial policies (you don’t spend more than you earn) and reliable
parenting strategies (the adults are in charge, not the kids).
veteran of the Industrial Revolution, the Great Depression, and the
Technological Revolution, Common Sense survived cultural and educational
trends including feminism, body piercing, whole language and new math.
But his health declined when he became infected with the ‘If it
only helps one person it’s worth it’ virus.
recent decades his waning strength proved no match for the ravages of
overbearing federal regulation. He watched in pain as good people became
ruled by self-seeking lawyers and enlightened auditors. His health
rapidly deteriorated when schools endlessly implemented zero tolerance
policies, reports of six-year old boys charged with sexual harassment
for kissing classmates, a teen suspended for taking a swig of mouthwash
after lunch, and a teacher fired for reprimanding an unruly student.
Common Sense lost his will to live as the Ten Commandments became
contraband, churches became businesses, criminals received better
treatment than victims, and federal judges stuck their noses in
everything from Boy Scouts to professional sports. As the end neared,
Common Sense drifted in and out of logic but was kept informed of
developments regarding questionable regulations for asbestos, low flow
toilets, “smart” guns, the nurturing of prohibition laws and
mandatory air bags. Finally, when told that some hockey associations
were banning parents from the arena while their children were playing,
he breathed his last.
Sense was preceded in death by his parents Truth and Trust; his wife,
Discretion; his daughter, Responsibility; and his son, Reason. He is
survived by three stepbrothers, Rights, Corruption and Whiner.
many attended his funeral because so few realized he was gone.”
hope you now have a better understanding of why the world is unfolding
as it is today. We will all miss Common Sense. He is going to be hard to
a good week!
||REFLECTIONS by Robert Kirwan
October 25, 2000
"The Mighty Oak Was Once A Little Nut That Stood Its
mighty oak was once a little nut that stood it’s ground”. A powerful
message is contained in that simple quotation. Since I first came across
it several years ago, the phrase stuck with me and I have had
opportunity to repeat it to myself many, many times.
are instances in everyone’s life when you are forced to stand up for
your principles and fight for what you believe in. Often you find that
you are the only one in the crowd with the vision to see into the future
and you find yourself in a struggle to open the eyes of those around
you. It is then that you realize that it doesn’t take guts to follow
the crowd, that courage and intelligence lay in being willing to be
brings to mind a story that dates back to the 1960's when drug companies
were presenting nearly 700 applications a year to the Federal Drug
Administration (FDA) in the United States for new medicine. The New Drug
Section had only 60 days to review each application before giving
approval or asking for more information.
few months after one young doctor joined the FDA, an established
pharmaceutical firm in Ohio applied for a license to market a new drug,
Kevadon. In liquid form, the drug appeared to relieve nausea in early
pregnancy. It was given to millions of expectant women, mostly in
Europe, Asia and Africa. Although scientific studies revealed harmful
side effects, the company printed tens of thousands of leaflets
declaring its safety. The company also exerted tremendous pressure on
the young doctor to give permission for labels to be printed in
anticipation of the drug’s approval.
doctor reviewed the data and refused approval for the drug. After
several rounds of applications, she continued to find the data
unsatisfactory and refused to grant permission to market the drug. She
faced great pressure from colleagues and from the industry for her
actions and realized that it would have made her life so much easier if
she just gave in and allowed the drug to be put on the market.
a struggle which lasted more than a year and a half, the company humbly
withdrew its application. You see, Kevadon was thalidomide, and by that
time the horror of thalidomide deformities was becoming well publicized.
Because this young doctor had stood her ground, the United States was
spared untold agony.
lesson was clear then as it is today. Sometimes standing your ground on
an issue does not seem that important, but in time you may see the big
picture. The more frustrating times
occur when you see the big picture but those around you do not. Those
are the times when your courage is tested. Especially when you realize
that your arguments and presentations are constantly being opposed by
others who are more interested in immediate personal gratification
rather than in long-term benefits.
of the opposition, you must always remember that it is your
responsibility to speak out for those things in which your believe to be
true. Do not allow others to make you give in if you are certain you are
right. It doesn’t take any guts to follow the crowd, but it takes
tremendous strength and courage to lead the crowd. And above all, do not
remain silent. If you do, others may take your silence as agreement with
their position. Let your opinion be known and remain firm.
next time you are faced with a tough challenge, remember the mighty oak
tree. It too was once a little nut which stood its ground, and look at
a good week.
||REFLECTIONS by Robert Kirwan
October 18, 2000
Payment For Kindness
anyone done something nice for you lately? How did you respond? Did you
say thank you or did you try to pay the person back in some way?
of us have trouble accepting kindness from others. It makes us feel like
we owe a return favour to the person - kind of like an obligation.
kindness shouldn’t be like that. Kindness should generate kindness. In
other words, if someone does something kind to you, you should in turn
do something kind to two other people. Hopefully, they will do something
kind to others and so on and so on. Eventually, you may find yourself on
the receiving end of an act of kindness that was a result of you
starting the chain reaction.
think you will enjoy the message from the story below.
day, a poor boy who was selling goods door to door to pay his way
through school found he had only one thin dime left and he was hungry.
He decided he would ask for a meal at the next house. However, he lost
his nerve when a lovely young woman opened the door.
of a meal, he asked for a drink of water. She thought he looked hungry
and so she brought him a large glass of milk. He drank it slowly, and
then asked, “How much do I owe you?”
don’t owe me anything,” she replied. “Mother has taught us never
to accept pay for a kindness.”
said, “Then I thank you from my heart.” As Howard Kelly left that
house, he not only felt stronger physically, but his faith in God and
man was strengthened also. He had been ready to give up and quit.
later, that young woman became critically ill. The local doctors were
baffled. They finally sent her to the big city, where they called in
specialists to study her rare disease.
Howard Kelly was called in for the consultation. When he heard the name
of the town she came from, he went down the hall of the hospital to her
room. Dressed in his doctor’s gown, he went in to see her. He
recognized her at once. He went back to the consultation room determined
to do his best to save her life. From that day, he gave special
attention to her case.
a long struggle, the battle was won. Dr. Kelly requested from the
business office to pass the final billing to him for approval. He looked
at it, then wrote something on the edge, and the bill was sent to her
room. She feared to open it, for she was sure it would take the rest of
her life to pay for it all. Finally she looked and something caught her
attention on the side of the bill. She read these words:
in full with one glass of milk..
act of kindness is ever wasted. Even if you don’t receive an
acknowledgement from the recipient, you can rest assured that it has
affected him and will eventually produce something positive. The more
acts of kindness you dish out on any given day, the more people you will
be providing with a special gift to take with them along their daily
journey. Since you never
really know just how much impact your act of kindness will have on the
people you meet, you should always take advantage of every opportunity
to be kind. And you never know when that simple act of kindness may one
day be returned in a big way. Look at what one glass of milk did in the
ahead - start the chain reaction!
a good week!
||REFLECTIONS by Robert Kirwan
October 11, 2000
Have You Turned A Life Around Today?
attended a luncheon the other day and had an opportunity to sit with
several of the key people involved with the Network North organization.
We discussed the whole notion of mental health and mental illness and
came to the conclusion that so many people today are walking a tightrope
among the daily stresses of life. No one knows just what is going on
inside another person’s head. What is troubling the stranger on the
other side of the counter? Why is that person looking so sad today? Why
is that child playing alone?
we continued to discuss the issue of mental health, we also identified a
real need in society for people to feel supported by other human beings
and to have their dignity reaffirmed through sincere, warm, friendly
contact. But who should accept the responsibility for reaching out to
others? And who really needs to be helped? The answer, we discovered, is
the same for both questions: EVERYONE! Yes, we all need support and
reaffirmation that we count for something in this life and that life is
worth living, and we must all accept the responsibility for reaching out
to others to provide this support.
if you can see this message in the following heartwarming story I found
on the internet the other day.
One morning a little boy decided that
he wanted to meet God. He knew it was a long trip to where God lived, so
he packed his back pack with Twinkies and a six-pack of root beer and
started on his journey. When he had gone about three blocks, he met an
old woman sitting on a park bench just staring at some pigeons. The boy
sat down next to her and opened his back pack. He was about to take a
drink from his root beer when he noticed that the old lady looked
hungry, so he offered her a Twinkie. She gratefully accepted it and
smiled at him.
Her smile was so pretty that the boy
wanted to see it again, so he offered her a root beer. Again, she smiled
at him. The boy was delighted! They sat there all afternoon eating and
smiling, but they never said a word. As it grew dark, the boy realized
how tired he was and he got up to leave, but before he had gone more
than a few steps, he turned around, ran back to the old woman, and gave
her a hug. She gave him her biggest smile ever.
When the boy opened the door to his
own house a short time later, his mother was relieved to see him, but
she was surprised by the look of joy on his face. She asked him, “What
did you do today that made you so happy?
He replied, “I had lunch with
God.” But before his surprised mother could respond, he added, “You
know what? She’s got the most beautiful smile I’ve ever seen!”
Meanwhile, the old woman, also radiant
with joy, returned to her home. Her adult son, with whom she was living,
was stunned by the look of peace on her face and he asked, “Mother,
what did you do today that made you so happy?”
She replied, “I ate Twinkies in the
park with God.” However, before her surprised son responded, she
added, “You know, he’s much younger than I expected.”
read the above story after my luncheon with the ladies from Network
North. And immediately I realized that so often in the hurried up pace
of life today we underestimate the power of touch, a smile, a kind word,
a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring,
all of which have the potential to turn a life around.
am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason, and people come
into our lives for a reason. If I had not attended the luncheon, perhaps
the story would not have impacted on me quite so much.
you put this paper down, think of the people who have touched your life
in a special way. Pick up the phone and call them just to say thank you;
send them an email; write a letter; go to the store and tell that clerk
who helped you search for the item you couldn’t find how much you
appreciated the help; tell the waitress how her friendliness made your
meal so much more enjoyable.
time someone tells you that you look so happy or at peace with yourself,
see if you can honestly say that you have “had lunch with God.”
Have a good week!
||REFLECTIONS by Robert Kirwan
October 4, 2000
Through The Eyes Of The Beholder, Things To Be Truly
weekend is Thanksgiving Weekend. It has always been a special time of
the year for me. I tend to find myself working out in the yard putting
things away for the winter with plenty of time to think about life in
general. There is a lot to complain about today, but there is also a lot
to be thankful for. Usually, when we take the time to recognize our
blessings, our troubles don’t seem quite so large.
For example, many of us will spend a lot of time
worrying about which restaurant to go to for Thanksgiving dinner, while
others will be wondering if there will be any food at all on the table.
Others will be upset that they couldn’t fit into the expensive dress
they saw in the fashion store the other day, while still others will be
trying to find enough money to buy new snow shoes for their little
At times we look at others and feel sorry for them,
wishing that we could do something to help them get through their
difficulties. But in many cases, it is the very people who seem to be
poorest who are the rich ones. They are the ones who see life through
different eyes, choosing to be thankful for what they have instead of
what they don’t have.
Take for example the old man who showed up at the back
door of the house rented by a couple of college students. As the
students cracked open the door, they saw that his eyes were glassy and
his face unshaven. He said hello to them and offered to sell them some
apples and oranges he was carrying in an old basket. Although they had
all the fruit they needed already, the students made a purchase, mostly
because they felt pity for the old man and partly because they were
afraid of him.
The visits became more regular. The students began to
realize the glaze on his eyes was the result of cataracts, not alcohol.
They became accustomed to sound of his shuffling feet every morning.
Sometimes he wore mismatched shoes. He would often pull out a harmonica
and begin playing sad, gospel tunes in the middle of conversations with
The students realized that the old man didn’t have
many friends. Perhaps they were the only people who paid any attention
to him. He showed them the old shack where he lived and continued to
sell apples and oranges to the students almost every single day.
On one visit he said to the students, "What a
day! I came out of my shack this morning and found a bag full of shoes
and clothing on my porch."
The students celebrated with him, not letting on that
it was they who had purchased the shoes and clothes and placed them on
the porch as a gift. They wanted to remain anonymous.
"We’re really glad for you," they
Then the old man added, "You know what’s even
more wonderful? Just yesterday I met some people who could really use
The old man taught the students something very
important about life that day. No matter how little you have or how
little you know, you still have something you can do for both yourself
and for others. The old man enjoyed the life he was living and was
grateful for the shoes, clothing and friendships he had with others. He
was thankful for the opportunity to share his good fortune with someone
less fortunate than himself.
That’s what Thanksgiving weekend is all about.
Taking a good look at yourself and discovering what you can do for
yourself and others. It doesn’t take much effort to do some small
thing to make someone’s life happier. And in doing so, you will be
amazed at how much it does for you.
Have a good week, and a Happy Thanksgiving!
||REFLECTIONS by Robert Kirwan
September 27, 2000
Respect is 'Caught' not 'Taught', But Who Is Doing The
any adult what they think is wrong with kids today and inevitably the
answer will boil down to the fact that kids seem to have a serious lack
of respect. Not all kids display this character flaw, but a large number
of them certainly do. And the ones who demonstrate a lack of respect for
people, property and themselves tend to be the most vocal and most
visible. Another problem is that lack of respect is contagious. If
someone shows disdain for property, others around him gradually lose
their sense of respect temporarily. Unfortunately, I don’t think
anything can be done to correct this problem with society. We may just
have to accept that young people today are going to be disrespectful of
just about everything and everyone.
No don’t get me wrong. I am certainly not saying
that we give up on children, but if we want to see an improvement in our
youth, we are going to have to change the way that adults live. And that
is going to be a lot harder than dealing with the younger generation.
Let me demonstrate what I mean with a couple of
A puppy once wandered to a man’s home and his two
sons played with it, fed it, and soon became quite attached to it. The
pup had three white hairs in its tail. One day, the man and his sons
spotted an advertisement in the newspaper about a lost dog. The
description of the stray they had taken in matched the description in
the advertisement perfectly.
The man later recalled that in the presence of his two
sons, he carefully separated the three white hairs and removed them from
the dog’s tail. The real owner eventually discovered where his stray
puppy had gone and he came to claim him. The little dog showed every
sign of recognizing his owner, so the man was ready to take him away. At
that point the father of the sons spoke up and asked, "Didn’t you
say the puppy would be known by three white hairs in its tail?" The
owner, unable to find the identifying feature, was forced to admit that
this dog didn’t fully fit the description of his lost dog and he left.
Many years have passed and the father now notes with
extreme sadness, "We kept the dog, but I lost my two boys that day.
They never again respected me quite the same after that."
Let me now tell you another story.
On the day before bass season opened, Tommy and his
father were fishing early in the evening on a Northern Ontario lake.
Suddenly, Tommy’s rod almost bent in half and he knew he had hooked
something huge. By the time the fight was over and he had reeled in the
monster, both Tommy and his father discovered that they were staring at
the biggest bass they had ever seen. By now darkness had engulfed the
fishermen. Bass season officially opened in less than three hours. Tommy’s
father looked at him and said quietly, "You’ll have to put it
Tommy protested, "I will never catch another fish
As they looked around, there were no other fishermen
in sight. They were completely alone, yet Tommy knew that his father’s
decision was final and he let the fish back into the water.
To this day, Tommy still recalls that story whenever
he is faced with a question of ethics in his own life. The respect he
gained for his father that day has never died.
As long as our children see adults themselves acting
disrespectful to others, whether it is on television or in real life; as
long as they see disrespect for authority by adults; as long as adults
show that they do not respect themselves, we can not expect the level of
respect in our children to improve. Just look at television. Look at how
adults behave at sporting events. Look at how adults behave when they
have had a couple of drinks. You better look, because your children are
looking. Remember, respect is ‘caught’ not ‘taught’. Watch what
you are throwing.
Have a good week.
||REFLECTIONS by Robert Kirwan
September 20, 2000
May We Never Be Too Busy To Respond With Kindness And
Compassion To Strangers
famous actor or singer once said, "There is no such thing as a
stranger, just a friend I haven’t met."
For most people, however, strangers present a problem
today. When we approach a stranger on the street, we often glance away
or down to the ground to avoid eye-contact. There seems to be some kind
of fear about looking into the eyes of a stranger. Perhaps it is because
our eyes tell so much about us and we want to remain anonymous. We may
be afraid to let our eyes reveal our true feelings.
I came across a story recently that drove this message
home loud and clear. It looks as if it may have been a true story, which
makes it even more significant.
It was a bitter, cold evening in northern Virginia
many years ago. The old man’s beard was glazed by winter’s frost
while he waited for a ride across the river. The wait seemed endless.
His body became numb and stiff from the frigid north wind.
He heard the faint, steady rhythm of approaching
hooves galloping along the frozen path. Anxiously, he watched as several
horsemen rounded the bend. He let the first one pass by without an
effort to get his attention. Then another passed by, and another.
Finally, the last rider neared the spot where the old man sat like a
snow statue. As this one drew near, the old man caught the rider’s eye
and said, "Sir, would you mind giving an old man a ride to the
other side? There doesn’t appear to be a passageway by foot."
Reining his horse, the rider replied, "Sure
thing. Hop aboard." Seeing the old man was unable to lift his
half-frozen body from the ground, the horseman dismounted and helped the
old man onto the horse. The horseman took the old man not just across
the river, but to his destination, which was just a few miles away.
As they neared the tiny but cozy cottage, the horseman’s
curiosity caused him to inquire, "Sir, I notice that you let
several other riders pass by without making an effort to secure a ride.
Then I came up and you immediately asked me for a ride. I’m curious
why, on such a bitter winter night, you would wait and ask the last
rider. What if I had refused and left you there?
The old man lowered himself slowly down from the
horse, looked the rider straight in the eyes, and replied. "I’ve
been around these here parts for some time. I reckon I know people
pretty good." The old-timer continued, "I looked into the eyes
of the other riders and immediately saw there was no concern for my
situation. It would have been useless even to ask them for a ride. But
when I looked into your eyes, kindness and compassion were evident. I
knew, then and there, that your gentle spirit would welcome the
opportunity to give me assistance in my time of need."
Those heartwarming comments touched the horseman
deeply. "I’m most grateful for what you have said," he told
the old man. "May I never get too busy in my own affairs that I
fail to respond to the needs of others with kindness and
With that, Thomas Jefferson turned his horse around
and made his way back to the White House.
As you go about your business the rest of the week,
talk to people with your eyes. Show them that you care, even if ever so
slightly. The person at the counter of the corner store; the carry-out
person at the grocery store; the parking lot attendant; and any other
person, young or old, male or female, who happens to cross paths with
you for any reason, are all just "friends you have not met".
Show them with your eyes that you respect them and make them feel like
they too have met a new friend.
Have a good week.
||REFLECTIONS by Robert Kirwan
September 13, 2000
Change Is Something You Can't Escape. Coping With
Change Is Critical
beginning of a new school year always reminds me that one of the most
important skills we can develop within children is the ability to cope
with change. As I look around at my new students, I see a great deal of
apprehension in some of their faces. Some have just moved into the area
and are thrust in among 25 or 30 strangers. Others have been in the same
class with their best friend for years and are now separated. I also
recall colleagues who have retired or who have transferred to other
schools or positions. While I am pleased that these people are moving on
to new, exciting opportunities, it doesn’t make it any easier to say
It is important to learn early in life that life has a
way of throwing obstacles at us. Just when we start to get comfortable
with a person, a place or a situation, something comes along to change
it. A friend moves away. A child graduates and takes a job in another
city or gets married. Unexpected expenses arise which force you to use
savings that were set aside for a vacation. Or you get laid off from
Our ability to cope with change and disruption
determines, to a great degree, our peace, happiness and contentment in
life. But how do we develop this ability to cope with change? How do we
help children learn this skill?
Philosophers have considered this question for
centuries. According to the author of the Book of Ecclesiastes, comfort
can be found in remembering that "to every thing there is a season,
and a time to every purpose under heaven." A friend of mine once
stated that in order to work for the government, "survivability
depends upon adaptability". I recently watched a show on television
where a California surfer summed up the answer to life’s problems in
four simple words: "Go with the flow."
The Californian explained, "It’s like surfing.
You can’t organize the ocean. Waves just happen. You ride them where
they take you, then you paddle back out there and catch the next one.
Sure, you’re always hoping for the perfect wave, but mostly you just
take them the way they come."
Perhaps the surfer has the answer we have been looking
for. Life is nothing more than a series of events - both good and bad.
No matter how good your organizational skills or how well you have
planned for all eventualities, there will always be life-influencing
factors over which you have no control. The truly successful person
expects the unexpected, and is prepared to make adjustments should the
need arise, as it almost always does.
That doesn’t mean you don’t keep trying to make
your plans and dreams come true. It just means that when things don’t
go according to plan, you just work around them and then move on. As the
surfer said, "You ride them where they take you, then you paddle
back out there and catch the next one."
What we must all realize is that some obstacles are
easier to take than others. Missing a baseball game because of rain is
easier to take than the sudden death of a family member. But the
principle is the same. "You ride the wave where it takes you, then
you paddle back out there and catch the next wave, always searching for
the perfect ride." In other words, you work around the obstacle the
best you can and then you move on with your life.
People have often commented on my ability to remain
calm under difficult circumstances. I merely tell them that the secret
is to keep your planning to a minimum. If I have to get to Sudbury, I
will plan on taking the shortest route along Hwy 69N. But, if for some
reason I am forced to take a detour through Garson or Rayside-Balfour, I
have learned to simply enjoy the ride. I will eventually get to Sudbury.
It may take a little longer, and the road may be a little bumpier, but I
will get there. I have also learned over the years that usually when I
am forced to take a detour, I encounter some very worthwhile
life-experiences along the way that I would have missed had it not been
for taking the detour. As weird as it sounds, I actually look forward to
the unexpected. It’s like opening a Christmas present - you never know
what you are going to find.
So, when my students look back on this year, I guess I
hope that the one thing they remember most of all is that Mr. Kirwan
taught them not to fear change, but to cope with it by enjoying the ride
and then moving on with life.
Have a good week!
||REFLECTIONS by Robert Kirwan
September 6, 2000
Love Your Family As You Would Love
the years I have often watched with interest how parents treat friends
of their children. The friend spills milk on the floor and the parent
makes light of the accident and quickly wipes the liquid up with a paper
towel. However, if his/her own child spills the milk on the floor, the
reaction is one of anger and the lecture is on about being more careful
next time. I think back to my own life experiences and realize how often
I sent the wrong message to my own sons - that I valued strangers more
than I valued my own flesh and blood. Oh, admittedly, I would never
verbally express that sentiment. But, nevertheless, my actions said it
loud and clear.
I am going to share a little story with you, but, if
you are a parent, I would suggest you read this at a time when your
children are still awake. Otherwise, I am sure you will want to rush
right over to their bed, wake them up and give them a big hug.
"One day Jane was rushing through the shopping
centre when she bumped into a stranger as he passed by.
"Oh, excuse me," was Jane’s reply.
"Please excuse me too," said the stranger.
"I wasn’t even watching out for you."
Jane and the stranger were very polite and even said
good-bye as they went along on their way.
Later that day, back at home, Jane was cooking the
evening meal. Jane’s daughter stood quietly, very still beside her.
When Jane turned around, she nearly knocked the little girl down.
"Move out of the way," Jane said with a
frown, not realizing how harshly she had spoken to the young girl, who
walked away, her little heart broken.
That night, while Jane lay in bed, God’s voice spoke
to her. "While dealing with a stranger, you used common courtesy,
but why were you so quick to abuse your own daughter. Go look on the
kitchen floor and you will find some flowers by the door. Your daughter
picked those pink, yellow and blue flowers and brought them to you. She
stood quietly trying not to spoil the surprise and you never even saw
the tears in her eyes while you were yelling at her."
By this time, the tears were rolling down Jane’s
cheeks and she felt very small indeed. She quietly got up and knelt
beside her daughter’s bed.
"Wake up little darling, wake up," she said.
"Are these flowers you picked for me? I found them by the
The little girl grinned from ear to ear as she said,
"I picked them because they’re pretty just like you. I knew you’d
like them, especially the blue ones."
Jane could hardly hold back the emotion as she
continued, "I’m sorry for the way I acted today. I shouldn’t
have yelled at you that way."
The young girl said, "Oh, mom, that’s okay. I
love you anyway."
"I love you too," Jane whispered as she lay
down beside her precious little girl. "And I do like the flowers,
especially the blue."
Isn’t life strange. We put so much effort into our
jobs, even though we realize that if we died tomorrow, we would be
replaced and forgotten in a matter of days. We go out of our way
to show kindness to strangers and casual acquaintances, even though we
know that they could care less if they ever saw us again.
We know the family we would leave behind if we died
would feel the loss for the rest of their lives. Yet, we pour so much
more of ourselves into our jobs and our friends. We wouldn’t dream of
yelling in a disrespectful manner to a stranger, but we don’t give it
a second thought when dealing with a loved one.
I once saw the true meaning of the word, F-A-M-I-L-Y.
(F) Father (A)nd (M)other (I) (L)ove (Y)ou!
Next time your child does something that upsets you,
hold yourself back and ask, "What would I do if you were a
Now, go and give your child a hug and a kiss.
Have a good week!
||REFLECTIONS by Robert Kirwan
August 30, 2000
What Really Matters In Life... People, Not Objects
Day weekend is upon us again and with it comes the harsh reality that the
summer is coming to an end. Parents are busy getting their children ready
for the first day of school next Tuesday.
I often do a lot of thinking about life at this time of
year. For the past 27 years as a Teacher, I too, have anticipated the
first day of school. What are my new students going through as they wait
to be seated in my classroom? What do they expect? Are they looking
forward to the experience with apprehension or hope for a great year?
I also do a lot of reading at this time of year and I
came across a selection from "The Hymnbook", written by Arthur
Bowler. Every parent will understand why I was greatly moved by the story
and I’m sure every parent could also recount a similar experience.
Hopefully, the message to your children was the same.
The author wrote:
I watched intently as my little brother was caught in
the act. He sat in the corner of the living room, a pen in one hand and my
father’s hymnbook in the other. As father walked into the room, my
brother cowered slightly. He sensed that he had done something wrong. From
a distance, I saw that he had opened Dad/s brand-new book and scribbled
across the length and breadth of the entire first page with a pen. Now,
staring at my father fearfully, he and I both waited for his punishment.
My father picked up his prized hymnal, looked at it
carefully, and then sat down without saying a word. Books were precious to
him. He was a pastor and the holder of several degrees. For him, books
were knowledge, and yet, he loved his children. What he did in the next
few minutes was remarkable.
Instead of punishing my brother; instead of scolding or
yelling or reprimanding, he sat down, took the pen from my brother’s
hand and then wrote in the book himself, alongside the scribbles John had
"John’s words in 1959, age two. How many times
have I looked into your beautiful face and into your warm, alert eyes
looking up at me and thanked God for the one who has now scribbled in my
new hymnal? You have made the book sacred, as have your brothers and
sister too so much of my life"
Wow, I thought. This is punishment?
From time to time I take a book down—not just a cheezy
paperback, but a real book that I know I will have for many years to come—and
I give it to one of my children to ‘write’ their names in. As I look
at their artwork, I think of my father, and how he taught me about what
really matters in life: people, not objects; tolerance, not judgement; and
love, which is at the heart of a family.
I think about these things, smile, and I whisper,
"Thank you, Dad."
People, tolerance and love—the things that really
matter in life.
As I returned to prepare for a new school year, I
wondered about Reading, Writing and Arithmetic. Perhaps all these years
educators have been dead wrong. Perhaps all this talk about returning to
the basics have nothing to do with the three R’s. Perhaps what we need
is a return to the basics of life: people, tolerance and love. My long
range plans for this year are going to reflect the really important
things. If I do that, I am sure all the rest will fall into place.
Have a good week!
||REFLECTIONS by Robert Kirwan
August 23, 2000
Fighting To Keep Our Most Valuable Resources
|A couple of weekends ago I had the
opportunity to play in a golf tournament with my son and two of his
friends. Marty Kirwan, Stacy Levac and Todd Newell have been inseparable
friends for many years and needed a fourth player for their team which
was entered in the Annual ‘AAA’ Midget Golf Tournament. Last year
they came in 2nd place by a single stroke and wanted to take
a serious run at winning it this year. We had a practice round prior to
the tournament and even went to the driving range to warm up before our
11 a.m. tee time on the day of the big event. When we took our place on
the tee to begin our quest for the championship, little did I realize
that I was taking part in one of those significant life experiences that
we all look back upon with fondness over the ever increasing years of
The golf part of the day was remarkable in itself. The three young
men I had the privilege of playing with, each in their early 20's,
executed unbelievable skills throughout the round. I was the one who was
expected to be the stabilizing force on the team. After all, at almost
three times their age, and with a reputation of being a fairly good
golfer, my experience was to have helped them along. Needless to say,
that try as I might, my drives were short, my chips were off the mark,
and my putting was nowhere near perfect. As a matter of fact, out of the
58 best ball strokes we took, only two of them selected were shots that
I had made, including the drive on the very last hole. Marty, Todd and
Stacy each came through when needed and seemed to know when it was their
turn to hold up the team. They were in good humour throughout the
afternoon and thoroughly enjoyed what they were doing with an air of
confidence that made you feel like they were destined accomplishing
their goal. They even made an old man like me feel like I was an
integral part of the team and I was delighted to be along for the ride.
We actually won the tournament by three strokes - a relatively large
margin of victory for a scramble event. I doubt if I will ever witness,
let alone be a part of, another performance as good as the one I saw
that afternoon. Long drives in excess of 300 yards; pin-point accurate
chipping, and; excellent putting were the order of the day. I don’t
think I had a bad day of golf, but I just couldn’t come close to the
standard set by my three partners.
As we mingled among the other 141 golfers in the clubhouse at the end
of the competition, I felt a tremendous sense of pride at having been
part of the winning team. I knew so many of the participants, having
lived in Valley East for 27 years, and it was a great feeling receiving
comments about playing with my son and his friends.
Nevertheless, even amid the excitement and glory of winning the
tournament, there was also a sense of sadness inside my heart that is
hard for me to explain. For I know that moments such as I was
experiencing that day will be few and far between in the future unless
we do something drastic to prevent our greatest resource - our children
- from being forced to relocate to the south to find meaningful
employment and careers. As I looked at Marty, Stacy and Todd that
evening, I realized that they will miss so much of the quality of life
that exists in Valley East unless we create a reason for them to stay.
When they graduate two years from now, will there be a career waiting
for them in the Sudbury area? Will the downsizing continue to erode the
options available to the next generation? Will the lure of the south
drag them away from us?
To all of the readers who are from my generation, I lay down the
challenge. Let us do something for our children before it is too late.
Let us help create an economically viable community in which the Marty’s,
Stacy’s and Todd’s of tomorrow can grow up and enjoy a quality of
life that is unique to the north. The Sudbury District can offer our
children just as good a future as Toronto, but we must create the proper
environment in which this can happen. We must take chances and invest
our time and money into new initiatives, and we must do so before it is
too late. Let’s not talk about downsizing anymore. Let’s talk about
expanding and creating wealth upon which dreams can be built.
I am not ready to give up on the future just yet. We have already
lost too many Marty’s, Stacy’s and Todd’s. It is time for action.
Please join with me in making it happen.
Have a good week!
||REFLECTIONS by Robert Kirwan
August 16, 2000
Wake Up And See That Your Dreams Have Already Come True
feel sorry for the next generation. Admittedly, I am not very old myself, but as
I look back over my life I realize that the times during which I really
appreciated what I had were the times when I didn=t
really have very much. It seems that the more we have, the more we want, and the
more we take for granted what we have. Many of us spend our entire life
searching for something that we had right in front of us all along.
My first teaching assignment was at an inner city school. Many of the
children came from the low rent area of town and were very poor. The school used
a large room in the basement as a gymnasium. The walls were panelled and there
were pillars throughout the room. When you played floor hockey, you had to stick
handle around the pillars. But I never once heard a complaint from those kids.
They loved their gym and couldn=t
wait to get down to the room to play whatever it was you asked. They were
sincerely appreciative of anything you did for them and took excellent care of
their equipment, books and school materials.
My next assignment was at a large, well-equipped school in the suburbs. The
gym was huge and we had everything imaginable in terms of supplies and
equipment. In spite of everything they had, these children did nothing but
complain. Nothing was good enough for them. The more they had, the more they
wanted. Furthermore, they had very little respect for school property and couldn=t
care less if things were damaged or lost.
I often wondered how the children from my first school would feel if they had
an opportunity to attend the >rich=
school. In retrospect, I am almost thankful that those disadvantaged children
were denied the riches of the suburbs. They may have had to do without the
luxuries that their suburbanite peers enjoyed, but at least they developed the
ability to get the most out of what little they did have. And they developed a
strong character which would help them face the challenges of the future. I
feared for the children from the suburbs who had only learned how to criticize
and complain about the shortcomings of the abundances they did have.
It is hard to imagine how the next generation is going to cope with the
choices they will have placed in front of them. If the technological advances of
the past several years are any indication, the future will be amazingly complex.
It will be geared to personal fulfilment through the use of technology. People
will have everything they could dream of right at their fingertips, and yet I
suspect those very people will not be happy. They will live their entire life
looking for >something
It reminds me of a story about a farmer who had lived on the same farm all
his life. It was a good farm with fertile soil, but with the passing of the
years, the farmer began to think that maybe there was something better for him.
So, he set out to find an even better plot of land to farm.
Every day he found a new reason for criticizing some feature of his old farm.
Finally, he decided to sell. He listed the farm with a real estate broker who
promptly prepared an advertisement emphasizing all the many advantages of the
acreage: ideal location, modern equipment, healthy stock, acres of fertile
ground, high yields on crops, well-kept barns and pens, nice two-story house on
a hill above the pasture.
When the real estate agent called to read the ad to the farmer for his
approval prior to placing it in the local paper, the farmer heard him out. When
the real estate agent had finished, the farmer cried out, AHold
changed my mind. I=m
not going to sell. Why, I=ve
been looking for a place just like that all my life!@
My wife and I have lived in our home for the past 27 years. We have raised
our three sons in this house and have enjoyed many happy memories. Others we
speak to find it hard to imagine how anyone could remain in the same house for
so long. Don=t
we wish we had a larger house? Or a house on a lake? Or a house in the city? Or
a house with a pool? Or a house with more land? Over they years I suppose we
have thought about those things, but now, as we walk around our modest property,
immersed in the wonderful memories of the past, we realize, as did the farmer,
that this is the place we=ve
been looking for all our lives. We wouldn=t
trade it for anything.
Next time you feel the urge to look for >something
start identifying the good traits of what you do have. You are likely to find
that they far outweigh the bad. Focus on what you have and what you don=t
have will likely seem insignificant.
Have a good week!