Reflections 2002 
Written by Robert Kirwan

The following articles were written during 2002 and were published in The Vision Paper.

For 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.

If you have any comments, please send them to me at 

Happiness Is All A Matter Of How You Look At Things (Apr.3) 


You Can Find Peace In The Strangest Places (Mar.27)


Creating Opportunity Is Just A Matter of Looking At Things Differently (Mar.20)


Are You An Egg; A Carrot; or A Coffee Bean (Mar.13)


Do You Know Who Packed Your Parachute? (Mar.6)


Cancelled Hockey Game In Valley East Is First Step In Removing "Terrorism" From The Game (Feb.27)


Animals Are Parents Too (Feb.20)


We Can Learn A Lot About Life And Love By Watching Lovebirds (Feb.13)


"I Believe" (Feb.6)


The Secret of Success May Be As Close As Your Last Failure (Jan.30)


Maybe It's Time To Just Go Fishing Again! (Jan.23)


There Are Times When We Only Need To See The Cake (Jan.16)


Treat Every Person You Meet At The Most Important Person In Your Life (Jan.9)


REFLECTIONS by Robert Kirwan

April 3, 2002

Happiness Is All A Matter Of How You Look At Things

What makes a person happy?

There are perhaps as many answers to that question as there are people reading this article.

To discover what makes a person happy, you just have to watch and listen for a while. For some, it is easy to identify. For others it seems as if nothing pleases them.

There is a funny story about an optimistic farmer who couldn’t wait to greet each new day wit a resounding, "Good morning, God!" He lived near a woman whose morning greeting was more like, "Good God...morning?"

Where he saw opportunity, she saw problems. Where he was satisfied, she was discontented.

One bright morning he exclaimed, "Look at the beautiful sky! Did you see that glorious sunrise?"

"Yeah," she encountered. "It’ll probably get so hot the crops will scorch!"

During an afternoon shower, he commented, "Isn’t this wonderful? Mother Nature is giving the corn a drink today!"

"And if it doesn’t stop before too long," came the sour reply, "we’ll wish we’d taken out flood insurance on the crops!"

Convinced that he could instill some awe and wonder in her hardened attitude, he bought a remarkable dog. Not just any mutt, but the most expensive, highly-trained and gifted dog he could find. The animal was exquisite! It could perform remarkable and impossible feats which, the farmer thought, would surely amaze even his neighbour. So he invited her to watch his dog perform.

"Fetch!" he commanded, as he tossed a stick out into a lake where it bobbed up and down in the rippling water. The dog bounded after the stick, walked ON the water, and retrieved it.

"What do you think of that?" he asked, smiling.

"Hmmm," she frowned. "Can’t swim, can he?"

Do you anyone like the lady in the story? Doesn’t it just take all the fun out of life when you are around people who have such a negative attitude that they find fault with just about everything around them?

Then you have people like the bus driver from Chicago. He actually sings while he drives, and not just softly, but loud enough for everyone on the bus to hear. He sings all day long while he drives.

He was once interviewed on a Chicago television station and said that he was not actually a bus driver.

"I’m a professional singer," he claimed. "I only drive the bus to get a captive audience."

His happiness is not driving a bus. His real joy in life is singing. People actually line up to ride on his bus. They even let other busses pass by so they can ride with the "singing bus driver". They love it! For him, his purpose on this earth is to make other people happy through his singing. The more he sings, the more he makes people happy. He is living the kind of life he believes he was meant to live and he is doing so by combining his purpose in living with his occupation.

We can’t always be happy. There are plenty of times when our mood may not be the greatest, but isn’t life much more enjoyable when we manage to shake off our troubles and cares and just savour everything that is good in our life. When you become the kind of person who has a positive attitude towards life, you attract friends and acquaintances. Everyone looks forward to being with you and talking to you because you help them enjoy their own experiences. And when you have a positive outlook on life, it seems as if the people around you develop the same kind of positive attitude. It is contagious and is far more desirable than being negative.

So when you put this paper down tonight, go forth and show a positive image to those you meet. Let people see that there is nothing that can get you down. Go ahead! It’s fun!

Have a good week!


REFLECTIONS by Robert Kirwan

March 27, 2002

You Can Find Peace In The Strangest Places

Perhaps one of the things that surprises me the most about writing this weekly column is that I never seem to run out of topics about which to write. Since Easter is approaching this weekend, I wanted to come up with something special, and it looked as if I would have trouble finding just the right subject matter. Then the other day I came across a little verse written by John Burroughs entitled, “Too Little Time”. He wrote:

“I still find each day too short for all the thoughts I want to think, all the walks I want to take, all the books I want to read, and all the friends I want to see. The longer I live the more my mind dwells upon the beauty and the wonder of the world.”

Perhaps that is exactly what makes life so precious. As you get older and begin to realize that the days you have used are gone forever, you begin to look more closely at the world around you and discover the wonder and beauty that was there all the time. Realizing that your days are numbered and that all of this could end at any time makes every moment so much more valuable. Becoming more and more enchanted with the splendours of life makes you long for more time to enjoy them all. Yet time is beyond our control. This awareness of our mortality is perhaps the real definition of inner peace.

Being peaceful, therefore, is not necessarily being in a state of quiet and solitude, shut off from the rumble of the rest of the activities of the world. Rather, being peaceful means being able to notice the true beauty in the middle of a storm. It means being fully aware of your surroundings and seeing things that others may not.

Let me demonstrate by telling you a story about a King who lived long ago.

“The King offered a prize to the artist who would paint the best picture of peace. Many artists tried. The King looked at all the pictures, but there were only two he really liked and he had to choose between them.

One picture was of a calm lake. The lake was a perfect mirror with peaceful towering mountains all around it. Overhead was a blue sky with fluffy white clouds. All who saw this picture thought that it was a perfect picture of peace.

The other picture had mountains too. But these were rugged and bare. Above was an angry sky from which rain fell and in which lightening played. Down the side of the mountain tumbled a foaming waterfall. This did not look peaceful at all. But when the King looked, he saw behind the waterfall a tiny bush growing in a crack in the rock. In the bush a mother bird had built her nest. There, in the midst of the rush of angry water, sat the mother bird on her nest... perfect peace.

Which picture do you think won the prize?

The King chose the second picture. "Because," explained the King, "peace does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble, or hard work. Peace means to be in the midst of all those things and still be calm in your heart. That is the real meaning of peace."

So as you are going through the rest of the week, preparing to celebrate Easter with your family and friends, remember this little story. If you find yourself in the middle of turmoil, either at home or at work, look carefully around and see if you can find a little spec of peace in the middle of the turbulence. If you look hard enough, you will discover peace and it will help you make sense out of the chaos and get through your challenges.

These are not the best of times in the Greater Sudbury Area. So many of our family and friends are either without employment or earning much less than they need to make ends meet. Our food banks are finding it extremely difficult to keep up with the demand for their services. According to the latest census report, over 40 people per week are moving out of the city in search of a new life elsewhere. There is trouble with our health system and our education system. All levels of government seem to be out of control and lacking direction. Municipal government is facing huge deficits, implying higher taxes or service cuts. The Provincial government is facing the same problem. Crime is everywhere. Senseless brutality headlines just about every newscast. Our senior citizens are facing a life of poverty as they outlive their meagre pensions and savings. Our children face a life of uncertainty with parents who have less and less commitment to long-term relationships. It is hard to expect to find peace in the midst of all of this strife.

Yet, the world in which we live is a peaceful place. There are moments of peace all around. Along with unemployment and poverty comes the peace of discovering the true love of the people around you who care. Volunteers working in the food banks find peace in their hearts as they help those in need, and the people who use the food banks discover a peace of belonging in a caring community. As people return to our community from elsewhere, they find peace that local residents overlooked and help us become aware of the good things we have in the Greater Sudbury Area. The community has come together to help raise funds to improve our health system; parents are taking more time to work with their children and are finding peace in sharing the discovery of knowledge with young boys and girls. Crime and brutality brings out supporting neighbours and heros who step forward in times of need. Senior citizen organizations are being created to help the elderly, and more importantly, the elderly are being asked to use their experience and wisdom to contribute to the community in valuable ways.

Yes, we live in a stormy world, but there is peace in the middle of the storm. Remember, only the King could spot the mother bird sitting on her nest behind the waterfall. Even if the storm continues around us, we will all become more aware of the beauty and wonder of the world and discover a peaceful calmness in our heart among this tempest we call life.

Have a very Happy and Peaceful Easter!


REFLECTIONS by Robert Kirwan

March 20, 2002

Creating Opportunity Is Just A Matter of Looking At Things Differently

One of the biggest challenges we have in society today is that there are too many opportunities just sitting there waiting for people to come along and snatch up. Now, don’t jump to conclusions. No, I haven’t gone out of my mind. It’s true!

The problem is that most of us just haven’t learned how to recognize those opportunities, even when they are right in front of our nose.

On the other hand, a person with imagination and ambition is the one who comes across a pile of scrap metal and sees a wonderful sculpture waiting to be uncovered. An ambitious person drives through an older part of town and sees a plan for a new housing development or a new recreation centre. An enterprising person is one who sees opportunity in all areas of life and who is willing to take a risk to seize the opportunity when it arises.

Jim Rohn, an inspirational writer states that, "We can all learn to be enterprising by simply keeping our eyes open and our mind active. We have to be skilled enough, confident enough, creative enough and disciplined enough to jump on opportunities when they present themselves, regardless of the economy."

Rohn went on to say, "Enterprising people always see the future in the present. They always find a way to take advantage of a situation and they aren’t lazy."

One of the points Rohn made with which I am in full agreement is that enterprising people don’t wait for opportunities to come to them - they go after opportunities and are brave enough to be creative and take chances.

As I look back on my career as an elementary school teacher, I wonder how many enterprising young boys and girls I helped destroy in a "system" which is certainly not conducive to the development of an enterprising spirit. In order to be enterprising, you must have the courage to see things differently and go against the crowd. By taking a different approach you often have to stand alone and you definitely have to choose activity over inactivity. I think back on all of the "discipline problems" I encountered among students during my 28 years in the classroom and wonder how many of those boys and girls were actually merely expressing their enterprising spirit. As teachers we did everything we could to make them "behave" and "fit in with the rest of the class".

As I watch my youngest son prepare to graduate with his degree in Sports Administration from Laurentian University, I am once again reminded that our school system does a good job of preparing our youth to be good employees. Everyone wants to know "Where you will be "working" next year? Have you got a job yet?" No one asks, "What kind of business are you going to begin? In which type of work are you going to be self-employed? Where are you going to set up your office?"

Agreeably, there is usually some security in finding a job where an employer pays you for your work and you put in your time making the employer a success. However, in order to be a "good employee" you are often forced to repress your creativity and ambition by following instructions and doing what you are told. As long as you remember who the boss is, everything will be fine.

Being enterprising means having enough self-confidence and self-worth to look for opportunities. You must be willing to set forth on risky voyages in order to do things which will make a difference in your future and in the future of people who come into your life.

Opportunity exists in the City of Greater Sudbury, and more importantly in the communities of Valley East and Capreol. We have talented young people who are ambitious, enterprising and fearless. It is now up to the "older generation" to release the chains and allow these people to seek out the opportunities and make things happen. We must provide them with support and encouragement while at the same time accepting that they may do things differently from what we would expect. That doesn’t mean that they are doing anything wrong. It just means that they see things in a different light.

My sons have a lot more courage than I did at their age. I don’t regret my life or the fact that I became a good government employee with a good pension and was able to retire early. But I do envy the fact that my sons will see a lot more of the world than I did because they are learning to go out and seek opportunities as businessmen.

My message for young parents is clear. Allow your children to be different, to go against the crowd, and to see the sculpture in a pile of scrap metal. The opportunities are everywhere - just learn how to see them.

Have a good week!


REFLECTIONS by Robert Kirwan

March 13, 2002

Are You An Egg; A Carrot; or A Coffee Bean

At one point or another during your life it will seem as if everything is going wrong. No matter what you do, your problems will just appear to get worse and worse. You will get so tired of fighting and struggling you may even think about giving up. When you encounter such a time, try to remember the story I am about to share with you. It is about a father who wanted to help his daughter put things into perspective one day when she complained to him about how difficult her life had become.

The father, who was a chef, took his daughter into the kitchen. He filled three pots with water and placed them each on a stove element. Soon all three pots came to a boil. In one pot he placed carrots. In the other he placed eggs, and in the last pot he placed ground coffee beans. He let them sit and boil without saying a word. The daughter sat impatiently, wondering what he was trying to do. She had approached him with her problems and all he could do was think about cooking. In a half hour he walked over to the stove and turned off the elements. He pulled the carrots out and placed them in a bowl. He pulled the eggs out and placed them in another bowl. Then he ladled the coffee out and placed the liquid in the third bowl.

He then turned to his daughter and asked, “Darling, what do you see?”

His daughter replied sarcastically, “Carrots, eggs and coffee.”

He brought her closer and asked her to feel the carrots. She did and stated that they were soft. He then asked her to take an egg and break it. After pulling off the shell, she observed the hard-boiled egg. Finally, he asked her to sip the coffee. Her face frowned from the strength of the coffee. When finished, she meekly asked, “Father, what does it mean?”

He explained, “The carrots, the eggs and the coffee all faced the same adversity. They were all placed in boiling water at 100 degrees Celsius. However, each one of them acted differently.”

He continued, “The carrot went in strong, hard and unrelenting. But after going through boiling water, it softened and became weak. The egg was fragile. A thin outer shell protected its liquid centre, but after going through boiling water, its inside became hardened. The coffee beans are unique however. After they were in boiling water, it became stronger and richer.”

“Which are you,” he asked his daughter. “When adversity knocks at your door, how do you respond?”

“Are you a carrot, an egg, or a coffee bean? Are you the carrot that seems hard, but with the smallest amount of pain, adversity, or heat, you wilt and become soft with no strength? Are you the egg, which starts off with a soft heart, a fluid spirit, but after a death, a breakup, a divorce, or a layoff you became hardened and stiff. Your shell looks the same, but you are bitter with a stiff spirit and heart, internally.”

“Or are you like the coffee bean,” he concluded. “The bean does not get its peak flavour and robust aroma until it reaches 100 degrees Celsius. When the water gets the hottest, it just tastes better. When things are at their worst, you get better. When people talk the most, your praises increase. When the hour is darkest and trials are their greatest, your worship elevates to another level.”

The young girl gave her father a hug and a kiss and never again complained about her problems.

Rest assured that life will throw you curves from time to time. No one ever gets a free ride in this world. And also be prepared to “hit the wall” several times in your life when it seems as if you will never reach a solution to your problems. When faced with seemingly insurmountable obstacles, remember three things: 1. God would never give you more adversity than you can handle; 2. Everything will be all right in the end, so if  everything is not all right, it’s not the end; and 3. Be like a coffee bean - when things are at their worst, you get better.

Have a good week!


REFLECTIONS by Robert Kirwan

March 6, 2002

Do You Know Who Packed Your Parachute?

Do you ever spend any time thinking about all of the people who are responsible for helping you make it through the day? Or are you one of those people who actually think you have made it on your own? See if the following little story improves your memory.

Charles Plumb was a United States Navy jet pilot in Vietnam. After 75 combat missions, his plane was destroyed by a missile and after parachuting to safety he was captured and spent six years in a communist prison. He survived the ordeal and went on a lecture tour providing audiences with insight into the lessons he learned from his experience.

One day, when Plumb and his wife were sitting in a restaurant, a man at another table came up and said, “You’re Plumb! You flew jet fighters in Vietnam from the aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk. You were shot down!”

“How in the world did you know that?” asked Plumb.

“I packed your parachute,” the man replied. “I guess it worked!”

Plumb gasped in surprise and gratitude as he shook the man’s hand, “It sure did. If your chute hadn’t worked, I wouldn’t be here today.”

Plumb couldn’t sleep that night, thinking about the man. He said, “I kept wondering what he might have looked like in a Navy uniform: a white hat, a bib in the back, and bell-bottom trousers. I wonder how many times I might have seen him and not even said Good morning, how are you? or anything because, you see, I was a fighter pilot and he was just a sailor.”

Plumb thought of how many hours the sailor had spent on a long wooden table in the bowels of the ship, carefully weaving the shrouds and folding the silks of each chute, holding in his hands each time the fate of someone he didn’t know.

From that day on, Plumb always asked his audiences, “Who’s packing your parachute?”

Everyone has someone who provides what they need to make it through the day. Plumb pointed out that he needed many kinds of parachutes when his plan was shot down over enemy territory. He needed his physical parachute; his mental parachute; his emotional parachute; and his spiritual parachute. He called on all of these supports before reaching safety.

It’s easy to miss what is really important as we go through the daily challenges of life. We get so caught up in surviving that we forget about the people who have provided us with the support in order to get through those challenges. In our hurry to get on with life we may fail to say hello, please, thank you, congratulate someone else on an accomplishment, give a compliment or just do something nice for someone we love. Yet, when you think of it, where would you be if they hadn’t packed your parachute?

Take a few moments to reflect upon the parachutes you use during the day. The girl who gives you your morning coffee at the drive through; the person who ploughs the road so that you can get to work; the cleaning lady who empties your garbage at night and vacuums your office; the mechanic who works on your automobile; the police officer who enforces the speed limit on the highway; the internet provider who makes sure your email arrives on time; your spouse who is always there to listen to your problems; your child’s coach who has made the arrangements for the game or practice so that you could concentrate on other things; the grocery store which remains open late at night so that you can get those things you forgot. Think about all of the things you did today which would have been impossible or much more difficult were it not for the help or assistance of someone else. Did you thank them for what they did? Did you show your appreciation? Moreover, did you pack anyone else’s parachute today? Did you make it easier for someone else to meet life’s challenges? Remember, as well as using parachutes, we must also provide parachutes for the people who come into our life.

Have a good week!


REFLECTIONS by Robert Kirwan

February 27, 2002

Cancelled Hockey Game In Valley East Is First Step In Removing "Terrorism" From The Game

Make sure you mark Monday, February 18, 2002 in your calendar as a very significant day in the history of hockey. On that day, two teams were scheduled to play the first game of their playoff round. However, the game was cancelled - not because of the weather, or some mechanical failure in the arena, or for any other of the usual reasons. This game was cancelled because the Referee-In-Chief could not find a qualified referee who would do the game. It was not because the referees were already booked in other games. Rather, it was because the referees who would normally be assigned to the game decided that it wasn’t worth the risk. And this may just be the beginning of a new trend, which will emerge as the officials finally make a statement that they are not going to take any more abuse.

One of the parents of a player with the visiting team was involved in a serious altercation with a referee earlier in the year. After a number of meetings to discuss acceptable solutions to prevent the recurrence of similar incidents in the future, senior referees decided that their safety couldn’t be assured and thus made a decision to book themselves off games involving this particular team.

Referees are concerned with the rampant spread of “Hockey Rage”. The possibility is very real that some participants are losing so much control of themselves that physical assault against the person in authority is inevitable. The referee is the prime target of this rage. If such an assault were to occur, many of the referees, who are in excellent shape, are not overly concerned about being able to defend themselves against the assault, but they are concerned with the fact that at the end of any altercation charges will likely be laid against them as well as their attacker. This means large legal bills, which have to be paid out of their pocket since the NOHA offers little if any support in these matters. Until the “Hockey Rage” participants are forced to stay away from the arenas, the senior officials are saying that it is not worth the $25 pay they get for doing a game if they have to worry about facing a $1000 legal bill and possible criminal charges which may affect their career.

What happened on Monday, February 18, 2002 in Valley East may well be repeated in the future unless parents, coaches and players who continually threaten and abuse officials change their ways.

Under the present rule structure, a referee may stop a contest if he feels that the situation in the arena is unsafe. In the future, when you hear a fan uttering threats of bodily harm to a referee, or if a referee feels that a fan is so out of control that his physical safety is in jeopardy, don’t be surprised if the game is stopped immediately. It is the responsibility of the home team to ensure the safety of all participants. This means that the home team will be asked to contact the police and initiate proceedings to charge the fan or have him removed from the arena.

There have been numerous instances this year when a coach or player has been ejected for uttering threats to the referee. In the past, a coach who threatened a referee was given a game misconduct and usually had to sit out another one or two game suspension. However, a coach who threatens physical harm upon a referee will now be facing much more than a game misconduct. It is quite possible that when a referee, especially one of the senior referees who feel a sense of responsibility for the future of the game and for the protection of his fellow officials, is required to eject a coach or player for verbal abuse, he may be inclined to pick up his cell phone and ask a police officer to report to the arena to press assault charges against the guilty party.  Never mind the suspension. Put the matter into the hands of the courts. 

Why is this happening? How has it gotten this far?

Just visit your local arena and listen to the fans. Watch how the coaches react when they don’t like a call. See how the players react when things don’t go their way. Suspensions haven’t worked. Coaches and players sit out a few games and then come back and commit the same infractions. They haven’t changed and likely won’t. Minor Hockey Associations say that their hands are tied and that they have trouble keeping violent parents out of the rink. The only solution is to bring the matter to the courts where a condition of dropping an assault charge is that the person will have to stay out of arenas. If that doesn’t work, watch for more referees sending in a list of teams for which they will refuse to work.

“Hockey Rage” is nothing more than a form of “terrorism” and we all know how the world view terrorism since September 11. It’s time to eliminate the terrorists from sport and make room for the people who still consider hockey a form of recreation.

Just remember, if it is something you wouldn’t say to a police officer or to a lawyer, it is likely something you shouldn’t say to a hockey referee who is doing his best to maintain order on the ice. If coaches, players and parents don’t watch out, they will soon find themselves sitting on the bench looking out at an empty sheet of ice in a very, very silent rink.

And as for baseball, soccer and other sports - don’t think this can’t happen there as well!

Have a good week!


REFLECTIONS by Robert Kirwan

February 20, 2002

Animals Are Parents Too

My readers know that I have a special fondness in my heart for dogs, so it should come as no surprise when I tell you that it’s my firm belief that you can tell a lot about people just by watching how they treat animals. Another one of my strong beliefs is that things are not always what they seem and that angels come in many packages. Let me show you what I mean.

Late one Saturday evening, John and his wife Jane were on their way back to their home town where they planned on spending Mother’s Day with their parents. They stopped at a local gas station to get coffee and something to snack on during the final hour and a half of their trip. When they got back inside their car, they noticed a man standing outside in front of the building. They assumed from his appearance that he was a homeless man. His clothes were tattered and worn and it looked like he had gone in and gotten himself something warm to drink. It was a rather cold night and it certainly looked as if the man did not have much money for food.

The next thing they saw was a dog walking up to the front of the building. Being dog lovers, John and Jane noticed that she looked like she was part wolf and part German Shepherd. They could tell she had been feeding puppies. She was also terribly in need of something to eat and both John and Jane felt bad for her, knowing in their mind that if she didn’t eat soon, she and her puppies would not make it.

John and Jane sat there and looked at the dog. They noticed that people walked by and didn’t even pet her, like most people do when they walk by an animal in front of a store. The shepherd may not have been as pretty and clean as most, but she still deserved better. Nevertheless, John and Jane sat, eating their snacks and did not do anything. However, someone else did. The homeless man, who himself looked hungry, went back inside the store. What he did after he came out brought tears to the eyes of both John and Jane. He had gone into the store, and with what little money he may have had, bought a can of dog food and fed that dog. A lot of people that night forgot that animals are God’s creations too. That dog was a parent, and it took a homeless man to show John and Jane as well as all of the others who walked by what they should have done.

It is becoming easier and easier for people in general to ignore others who need our help. We have been taught to distrust stranger and to keep within the safety of our own little piece of the world. Trouble is that as human beings, we will likely all have to rely upon the support of strangers at some time in our life. The homeless man, who himself was treated like an outcast, identified with the plight of the little dog. He felt the need to reach out and do what he could to provide the dog with nourishment so that she could take care of her puppies. Sometimes we need adversity in our own life in order to realize our responsibilities to others. If things are going too well, there is a tendency to put up a defensive wall around our world in order to keep others out. It’s time to remove those walls and allow humanity to thrive once again.

As I leave you this week, I want you to reflect upon the message in the following story about six human beings who found themselves in the black and bitter cold one night. They stood around the fire, each one clutching to a stick of wood, watching the glowing embers slowly dying. The first woman held on to her stick. There was no way she would give up her piece of wood because she noticed that one of the people in the group was black. The next man refused to put his stick on the fire because he noticed that one of the people did not belong to his Church. The third man sat in tattered clothes because he did not want to give up his stick to warm the rich. The rich man sat back and thought of the wealth he had accumulated and how he could keep what he had from the lazy poor people in the group. As the black man watched the fire die away, he saw holding on to his stick as a way of getting revenge on the white people. The last man refused to give up his stick until all the others had given up theirs. When the six people were found dead, many days later, each of them still clutched to their own stick. It was proof positive that they didn’t die from the cold outside, but instead, they died from the cold within.

Have a good week.


REFLECTIONS by Robert Kirwan

February 13, 2002

We Can Learn A Lot About Life And Love By Watching Lovebirds

Everyone who reads this editorial column week after week is well aware of the fact that I love using stories and anecdotes to express my feelings. So when we decided to ask our readers to submit stories about how they met the “love of their life”, I looked forward to discovering the “real-life” side of love that has touched the lives of “real people in our community”. The stories we received were amazing and truly heart-warming. We hope you enjoy reading the ones we have room to publish.

Love is a very difficult subject about which to write. It affects each of us in different ways at different times, yet it is a feeling, which is unmistakable when it comes to us. And scientific studies have shown that real, sincere love is as vital to human life as food, clothing and shelter.

My wife has always loved birds and animals. Besides dozens of bird feeders and houses outside, she once had over 26 birds in cages throughout the house, and among those were two lovebirds. So, when I read a little article on the internet written by a person named Vickie Lynne Agee, called ‘Life Lessons From Lovebirds’, I could definitely identify with what she wrote.

Vickie said that she and her husband were walking through a mall one day and stopped to look around the pet store. They came upon a pair of peach-faced lovebirds, which looked like they were truly “in love”. Vickie’s thoughts drifted back to the lovebirds during the next several days and to her surprise, one night after work her husband returned home clutching an elegant birdcage that housed those two precious creatures. The birds reminded them of a simpler day when love and togetherness between couples was not only a commitment, but a way of life.

Vickie and her husband have watched those lovebirds for some time and made the following observations about life and love, which, I am sure you will find, apply not only to birds, but to men and women as well.

  1. If you spend too much time looking in the mirror, it’s easy to lose your balance.

  2. Always keep a pleasant look on your face, even if your cage needs cleaning.

  3. If your mate wants to share your perch with you, move over.

  4. The real treats in life usually come only after you’ve cracked a few hulls.

  5. It takes two to snuggle.

  6. Sometimes your mate can see mites you didn’t even know you had.

  7. Singing draws more affection than squawking.

  8. It is only when your feathers get ruffled that your true colours really show.

  9. Too many toys can be distracting.

  10. When you have love in your heart, everyone around you will find joy in your presence.

The stories you will read elsewhere in this issue of The Vision will touch your heart. They are from real people who experienced real love and are living their lives with the confidence that comes from knowing that someone truly loves them in return. We all have our own stories about love. Some are joyful and some are painful. But we all have to admit that it is love, which makes it all worthwhile. The kind of love I of which I am referring was witnessed by the volunteers and doctors at a large hospital who were looking after a little girl named Liz, who was suffering from a rare and serious disease. They discovered that her only chance of recovery appeared to be a blood transfusion from her 5-year old brother, who had miraculously survived the same disease and had developed the antibodies needed to combat the illness. The doctor explained the situation to her little brother, and asked the little boy if he would be willing to give his blood to his sister. He hesitated only for a moment before taking a deep breath and saying, “Yes, I’ll do it if it will save her.” As the transfusion progressed, he lay in the bed next to his sister and smiled as he saw the colour returning to her cheeks. Then his face grew pale and his smile faded. He looked up at the doctor and asked with trembling voice, “Will I start to die right away?” Being young, the little boy had misunderstood the doctor. He thought he was going to have to give his sister all of his blood in order to save her.

That 5-year old boy didn’t have to read all kinds of books and watch all kinds of documentaries to understand what true love was. The love he had for his sister was so great that he was willing to give up his own life to save hers. This is what true love is all about. When you feel this way about someone, you know you are in love, and you know you are one of the richest persons in the world.

I hope you enjoy the stories of love you will read in this issue. I also hope they remind you once again of your own stories and perhaps rekindle the flames of love from within.

Have a good week!


REFLECTIONS by Robert Kirwan

February 6, 2002

"I Believe"

When it comes to enjoying life, there is nothing quite like a positive attitude. However, developing a positive attitude takes a great deal of work, and a genuine belief that life is good. The other day I read an email that is floating around in cyberspace which was simply entitled, “I Believe”. It struck me as something which should be copied and taped to the fridge or folded up inside your purse or wallet. Whenever life seems to be a bit too challenging, take it out and read it. 

I believe that we don’t have to change friends if we understand that friends change.


I believe that no matter how good a friend is, they’re going to hurt you every once in a while and you must forgive them for that.


I believe that true friendship continues to grow, even over the longest distance.


I believe that you can do something in an instant that will give you heartache for life.


I believe that it’s taking me a long time to become the person I want to be.


I believe that you should always leave loved ones with loving words. It may be the last time you see them.


I believe that you can keep going long after you think you can’t.


I believe that we are responsible for what we do, no matter how we feel.


I believe that either you control your attitude or it controls you.


I believe that regardless of how hot and steamy a relationship is at first, the passion fades and there had better be something else to take its place.


I believe that heroes are the people who do what has to be done when it needs to be done, regardless of the consequences.


I believe that money is a lousy way of keeping score.


I believe that my best friend and I can do anything or nothing and have the best time.


I believe that sometimes the people you expect to kick you when you’re down, will be the ones to help you get back up.


I believe that sometimes when I’m angry I have the right to be angry, but that doesn’t give me the right to be cruel.


I believe that just because someone doesn’t love you the way you want them to doesn’t mean they don’t love you with all they have.


I believe that maturity has more to do with what types of experiences you’ve had and what you’ve learned from them and less to do with how many birthdays you’ve celebrated.


I believe that it isn’t always enough to be forgiven by others. Sometimes you have to learn to forgive yourself.


I believe that no matter how bad your heart is broken the world doesn’t stop for your grief.


I believe that our background and circumstances may have influenced who we are, but we are responsible for who we become.


I believe that just because two people argue, it doesn’t mean they don’t love each other...and just because they don’t argue, it doesn’t mean they do.


I believe that you shouldn’t be so eager to find out a secret. It could change your life forever.


I believe that two people can look at the exact same thing and see something totally different.


I believe that your life can be changed in a matter of hours by people who don’t even know you.


I believe that even when you think you have no more to give, when a friend cries out to you, you will find the strength to help.

The nice thing about a list like this is that each one of us can add several more lines related to our own experiences. The trick is to take these words and incorporate them into our philosophy of life. Right now, they are just words. When faced with one of life’s little challenges, you must live like you really do believe and before long you too will develop the kind of positive attitude, which will enable you to live life to fullest and become the best you can be.

I invite my readers to send in some of your own beliefs which could be added to this list so that we can share them with everyone else. Send them in by email to or by fax to 969-4490.

Have a good week!


REFLECTIONS by Robert Kirwan

January 30, 2002

The Secret of Success May Be As Close As Your Last Failure

We see successful people all around us. They are the ones who seem to have the fanciest cars, biggest houses, great clothes and wonderfully satisfying jobs. Many of us look at those people and dream of achieving that level of success, if only we could discover their secret.

I once heard the president of a world famous computer company tell someone that the secret of his success could be summed up in two words, “Right decisions.”

When asked how he made right decisions, he responded, “Experience.”

Pressed further by the questioner, the president was asked how he got the experience to make the right decisions.

To that the president quickly answered, “Wrong decisions.”

Isn’t that the truth?

The older I get the more I realize how little I knew when I was young. I look back on all of the “wrong decisions” I have made in my life and shake my head knowing that I certainly wouldn’t make the same mistakes again. It is then that I realize I would not have gained the experience I now have which allows me to make the right decisions were it not for the mistakes I have made in the past.

So, does that mean that the older we get, the more chance we have of making all the “right decisions”? The answer to that depends on whether or not you are allowing yourself to take on new challenges and go along different paths as you enter each wonderful stage of your life.

There are times when we long for a safe and secure existence, remaining in that comfort zone with which we are familiar. It may seem as if we are in a rut, but it is safe and we know what to expect. It is easy to be successful in this comfort zone because we don’t take any new risks. Decisions are easy because everything remains the same.

But real living is all about taking risks. It is about experiencing new things and meeting new people. It is about expanding your circle of friends and becoming involved. When we are fully live, we grow as persons. When we stop growing, we it is because we have stopped living. It is often the fear of failure, which prevents many of us from experiencing life to the fullest, yet without failure we cannot be successful. It is quite a dilemma.

To help myself get over the fear of failure, I rely on a piece of writing I came across a long time ago that explained failure in a very positive manner. Let me share it with you.


Failure does not mean I’m a failure; It just means I have not yet succeeded.


Failure does not mean I have accomplished nothing; It just means I have learned something.


Failure does not mean I have disgraced myself; It just means that I have dared to try.


Failure does not mean I don’t have it; It just means I have to do something in a different way.


Failure does not mean I am inferior; It just means I am not perfect.


Failure does not mean I have wasted my life; It just means that I have an excuse to start over.


Failure does not mean that I should give up; It just means that I should try harder.


Failure does not mean that I will never make it; It just means that I need more practice.

Life is a series of ups and downs. That is what makes life so precious. We ride the emotional highs when we are successful and we experience the lows when we fail. But we should take heart in knowing that the secret of success may actually lie in our failures. Without failures from wrong decisions, we would lack the experience to make the right decisions later on in life. If there are some areas of your life right now in which you feel you are failing in some way, or in which you are not satisfied, look upon what has happened as a necessary step in achieving success. Then you will use your time to look for opportunities to use your new wisdom instead of dwelling on the failures and problems of the past.

I once heard a saying that went like this, “Everything is all right in the end! If is isn’t all right, then it isn’t the end!” So if there is something in your life that “isn’t all right yet”, just remember that “it isn’t the end until it is all right” and that since “everything is all right in the end” you really do have something to look forward to.

Have a good week!


REFLECTIONS by Robert Kirwan

January 23, 2001

Maybe It's Time To Just Go fishing Again!

The other day while I was caught in traffic, my mind began to wander like it usually does when I am not preoccupied with one of my numerous daily activities. I thought back to the beginning of my career as a teacher and recalled how excited I was to finally have an opportunity to ‘teach’ children. I then projected myself to my last couple of years before retirement and realized that the early excitement I felt in my first few years had disappeared. For whatever reason, and I have stopped trying to figure out how my mind works, I thought back to my days as a youngster growing up in Lively and how my friends and I would play street hockey for hours on end until our mothers would almost have to physically drag us into the house for dinner. It wasn’t just hockey, however. A couple of phone calls was all it took and we would have a baseball game, a football game, a game of hide-and-seek, soccer, you name it. And we had fun - no referees - no adults - just a bunch of kids playing for the “Stanley Cup” or the “World Series”.

I don’t notice the excitement in the eyes of young teachers any more. I certainly know I lost the excitement many years before I actually retired. I also notice that there doesn’t seem to be many road hockey games around. You seldom see kids playing at a baseball field unless there are adults, umpires and fancy uniforms.

It reminded me about a story I once heard about a group called “The Fisherman’s Fellowship”. They were surrounded by streams and lakes full of hungry fish. They met regularly to discuss the call to fish, and the thrill of catching fish. They really got excited about fishing! Something like I felt about  teaching when I first started. Something like a young kid feels about playing hockey in the beginning.

Well, someone suggested that they needed a philosophy of fishing, so they carefully defined and redefined fishing, and the purpose of fishing. They developed fishing strategies and tactics. Then they realized that they had been going about it backwards. They had approached fishing from the point of view of the fisherman, and not from the point of view of the fish. How do fish view the world? How does the fisherman appear to the fish? What do fish eat, and when? These are all good things to know. So they began research studies, and attended conferences on fishing. Some travelled to far away places to study different kinds of fish, with different habits. Some got PhD’s in fishology. But no one had yet gone fishing.

So a committee was formed to send out fishermen. As prospective fishing places outnumbered fishermen, the committee needed to determine priorities. A priority list of fishing places was posted on bulletin boards in all of the fellowship halls. But still, no one was fishing. A survey was launched, to find out why. Most did not answer the survey, but from those that did, it was discovered that some felt called to study fish, a few to furnish fishing equipment, and several to go around encouraging the fisherman.

What with meetings, conferences, and seminars, they just simply didn’t have time to fish.

One day, Jake, a newcomer to the Fisherman’s Fellowship was so moved by a stirring meeting that he went fishing. He tried a few things, got the hang of it, and caught a nice fish. At the next meeting, he told his story, and was honoured for his catch. He was then scheduled to speak at all of the Fellowship chapters and tell how he did it. Now, because of all the speaking invitations and his election to the Board of Directors of the Fisherman’s Fellowship, Jake no longer had time to go fishing.

But soon, Jake began to feel restless and empty. He longed to feel the tug on the line once again. So he cut the speaking, resigned from the Board of Directors and said to a friend, “Let’s go fishing.” And they did. Just the two of them, and they caught fish.

The members of the Fisherman’s Fellowship were many, the fish were plentiful, but the fishers were few.

As I finished the story, the traffic began moving again and the message was clear.

If we want to keep the excitement in teachers, maybe we should just let them teach. Forget about all of the curriculum reviews, certification courses, professional development programs, provincial testing and just let them teach! 

If we children are to have fun playing hockey, baseball, soccer, football or whatever, we must let them play. Forget about systems, rules, house leagues, travelling teams, uniforms, training, certification and such. Maybe what we have to do is just give a bunch of kids some  hockey sticks, a ball, a few chunks for goal posts and then leave them alone for a few hours.

Next time you feel yourself getting caught in a rut where something you once enjoyed isn’t fun anymore, think about Jake.

Have a good week!


REFLECTIONS by Robert Kirwan

January 16, 2002

There Are Times When We Only Need To See The Cake

I'm going to save my editorial comments until after you have had a chance to read the following story which I came across the other day. The story, entitled The Cake,  was written by a man named Joseph Walker. I stumbled onto it at precisely the right time in my own life, when I almost didn't see "the cake". Thankfully, the story reminded me that one must never be blinded to issues of long-term significance by things which may, on the surface, seem awfully important right now, but are actually really small in the larger scheme of things. Fortunately, the story helped me see the cake, and I'm very glad I did. When you finish reading the story, I think you will see what I mean and perhaps it will help you see the cake in your own life situations.

The Cake, by  Joseph Walker:

Cindy glanced nervously at the clock on the kitchen wall. Five minutes before midnight. Her parents were expected to arrive home any minute. She carefully put the finishing touches on the chocolate cake she was frosting. It was the first time in her 12 years that she had tried to make a cake from scratch, and to be honest, it wasn't exactly a culinary  triumph. The cake was lumpy and because she had run out of sugar, the frosting was bitter.

And then there was the way the kitchen looked. Imagine a huge blender filled with all of the fixings for chocolate cake - including the requisite bowls, pans and utensils. Now imagine that the blender is turned on - high speed - with the lid off. Do you get the idea?

But Cindy wasn't thinking about the mess. She had created something which was special to her - a masterpiece of flour and sugar rising out of the kitchen clutter. She was anxious for her parents to return home from their date so she could present her anniversary gift to them. She turned off the kitchen lights and waited excitedly in the darkness for them to arrive. When at last she saw the flash of the car headlights, she positioned herself in the kitchen doorway. By the time she heard the key sliding into the front door, she was on the verge of exploding and couldn't wait to share her excitement.

Her parents tried to slip in quietly, but Cindy would have none of that. She flipped on the lights dramatically and trumpeted: "Ta-daaaaa!" She gestured grandly toward the kitchen table, where a slightly off-balance, two-layer chocolate cake awaited their inspection.

But her mother's eyes never made it all the way to the table.

"Just look at this mess!" she moaned. "How many times have I talked to you about cleaning up after yourself?"

"But Mom, I was only..."

"I should make you clean this up right now, but I'm too tired to stay up with you to make sure you get it done right," her mother said angrily. "So you'll get up early and do it first thing in the morning."

"Honey," Cindy's father interjected gently, "take a look at the table."

"I know! It's a mess!" his wife said coldly. "The whole kitchen is a disaster. I can't stand to look at it." She stormed up the stairs and into her room, slamming the door shut behind her.

For a few moments, Cindy and her father stood silently, neither one knowing what to say. At last she looked up at him, her eyes moist and red. "She never saw the cake," she said.

While it is true that our children all need to learn to be responsible and suffer the consequences of their actions, parents must never lose sight of the fact that even though things like muddy shoes, lost money, dented fenders, and messy kitchens are frustrating, they are not worth the sacrifice of a person's dignity and feelings. It is my sincere hope that my own children have learned from watching my wife and I, that when they become parents themselves, they must never lose sight of the fact that there are things in this life that may seem important right now - but at the end of the day they are not worth damaging a relationship. After all, what's a little mud, a broken object, lost money or torn clothing compared to a child's self-esteem. You can clean up the mud, replace the broken object, live without the money and fix the clothing, but any damage you do to a relationship or to someone's self-esteem will last forever.

There are times in our life when perhaps it is all right to see the mess in the kitchen. And there are times when we only need to see the cake.

Have a good week!


REFLECTIONS by Robert Kirwan

January 9, 2002

Treat Every Person You Meet At The Most Important Person In Your Life

You are going to meet a lot of people during the course of your life. Some will seem to be more significant in terms of beauty, wealth, influence, intelligence and social status. Others will seem to be less significant. However, one thing you should always remember is that regardless of your own status in society, or the status of others who enter your life, there is no such thing as an insignificant person and every person you meet should be treated as the most important person in your life. For, in fact, each person you encounter is the most important person in your life during the time you are with that person. And what you actually say, or what you do in the presence of that person may mean all the difference in the world to you or to that particular individual. This is one fact of life you should never forget.

To illustrate this lesson, one of my former professors gave us a surprise test one day. I breezed through the quiz until I came to the last one: “What is the first name of the woman who cleans the school?” At first I thought this must be some kind of joke. As I looked around I could see that the entire class was stumped and puzzled.  We had seen this lady many times. She was tall, dark-haired and in her 50's. But apparently none of us had ever thought of stopping by to ask what her name was. We all turned in the test with the last question blank. One of the students then asked the professor if the last question would count.

“Absolutely,” replied the professor. “In your life you will meet many people. All are significant. They deserve your attention and care, even if all you do is smile and say hello.”

I’ve never forgotten that lesson. I’ve also never forgotten her name was Dorothy.

Another story I came across recently further demonstrated the lesson that you should always treat people with kindness and respect, regardless of their age or status. In the “old” days when an ice cream sundae cost much less than today, a young boy entered a small coffee shop and sat at a table. A waitress put a glass of water in front of him. “How much is an ice cream sundae?” he asked. “Fifty cents,” replied the waitress. The little boy pulled his hand out of his pocket and studied the coins in it. “Well, how much is a plain dish of ice cream?”

By now more people were waiting for a table and the waitress was growing impatient. “Thirty-five cents,” she brusquely replied. The little boy again counted his coins. “I’ll have the plain ice cream,” he said. The waitress brought the ice cream, put the bill on the table and walked away.

The boy finished the ice cream, paid the cashier and left. When the waitress came back, she began to cry as she wiped down the table. There, placed neatly beside the empty dish, were two nickels and five pennies. You see, the little boy couldn’t have the sundae, because he had to have enough left to leave her a tip. The little boy knew how important it was to always remember people who serve you, and the waitress learned a very important lesson about respect.

Finally, you should never turn down a request for help from someone in distress. The small inconvenience to your own plans may mean everything to the person to whom you reach out. This was demonstrated one night in the 1960's around 11 p.m. when an older African American woman was standing on the side of an Alabama highway trying to endure a lashing rain storm. Her car had broken down and she desperately needed a ride. Soaking wet, she decided to flag down the next car. A young white man stopped to help her, even though it was generally unheard of for a white person to help a black person during those conflict-filled times. The man took her to safety, helped her get assistance and put her into a taxi cab. She seemed to be in a big hurry, but wrote down his address and thanked him.  Seven days went by and a knock came on the man’s door. To his surprise, a giant console TV was delivered to his home. A special note was attached. It read: “Thank you so much for assisting me on the highway the other night. The rain drenched not only my clothes, but also my spirits. Then you came along. Because of you, I was able to make it to my dying husband’s bedside just before he passed away. God bless you for helping me and unselfishly serving others.” Sincerely, Mrs. Nat King Cole.

Yes, we will all meet many people during our life. Certainly, most of those encounters will not be turning points in our existence, but you never know how much a small favour, a gentle smile, remembering a person’s name or showing genuine respect may impact on another human being. Always remember that everyone is significant and deserving of your attention, even if all you do is smile and say hello.

Have a good week!


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