Reflections 2006 
Written by Robert Kirwan

The following articles were written during 2006 and were published in The Vision Paper.

For your convenience I have provided you with the titles and will try to give you a brief introduction to each editorial. 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 

bulletA Very Special Christmas Wish From The Kirwan Family
bulletAttitude Is The Key To Dealing With Family Stress During The Holiday Season”
bullet“Uncovering The Secret”
bullet“The Watermelon Hunter”
bullet“How Many Potatoes Are You Carrying Around?”
bullet“Celebrate National Adult Day With A Child This Weekend…” 
bullet“The Moments That Stand Out In Your Life…” 
bullet“Understanding True Love Is Often A Matter of Time…” 
bullet“An Invitation To Move To The I Can Do It Street  
bullet“Wasted The Whole Day Fishing With Jimmy. Didn’t Catch A Thing.”
bullet“The Mystery of Life…A Lot of Questions With No Answers…”  
bullet"The Golden Windows..."
The following articles were also written during 2006, but for your convenience I have provided you with the titles and a brief introduction to each editorial. 

All you need to do to read the article is click on the title or the More>>> prompt at the end of the introduction. That will take you to a page with the article. 

Once again, if you have any comments, please send them to me at 

bulletI Have Held Many Positions In My Life, But None More Important Than...
Two little boys were dressed and ready to go. In fact, they had been ready now for more than an hour. Excitement flooded their faces and all their talk was about only one thing: their father had promised to take them to the circus that afternoon and they were only minutes away from leaving. For More>>>>
bulletYou Can't See Where You Are Going If You Are Always Looking Behind...
One day, many years ago, I was standing in the hallway at a local elementary school watching a teacher bring her class to the gym when I overheard the most philosophical question I have ever encountered in my life. For More>>>>
bulletDeath Is Not The Enemy of Life, But Its Friend...
When my Father-in-law, Ignace Starcevic, passed away in 1982, my wife asked me to come up with something nice to have engraved on his tombstone.  I was only 32 at the time and we were in the process of raising three young sons, aged 3, 5 and 7.  It was a hectic time of our lives and we were typical parents – running ourselves ragged as we encountered all of the normal experiences and challenges faced by all other young parents. For More>>>>
bulletLife Is Like A Sponge

It has often been said that a person’s life is the sum total of his/her experiences. On the surface that seems like a simple enough statement, but if one accepts this premise, then why do so many of us engage in practices and activities which are negative and actually hurt us. Consider the family of five who decided one day to each clean a different area of the home. They each took a sponge, did the cleaning, and then placed the sponges back on the kitchen counter top. The sponges all looked the same. For More>>>>

bulletThe Difference Between Heaven and Hell
There are a lot of things I like about my life right now. I could spend the entire editorial discussing my family, my career and how I have enjoyed living in Val Therese for the past 32 years. But other than things to do with my family, the thing I like best about my life is the fact that through all of my work and personal interactions with the various parts of the community, I get to meet so many wonderful people who are devoted to improving the quality of life for others in need. For More>>>>
bulletThe Most Beautiful Word In Any Language...Mother
Norman Vincent Peale once wrote, “In her the creative genius of God attains His highest skill. What a charming blend she is of the most lovable and moving qualities of human nature. From the moment in youth when she holds her first baby in her arms until in life’s evening time she looks tenderly upon her grandchild, her life is one of dedicated service and love. Loving us; believing in us; fighting for us; praying for us; to her we are always her dear child – life of her life.” For More>>>>
bulletGive Your Parents A Hug And Thank Them For Caring
The other day I overheard two teenage girls in the mall complaining about their parents. One of them was upset because her parents wouldn’t let her go out on a date with a guy named Fred, who was three years older than her. The girls were making plans to trick her parents into thinking they were having a sleep-over. For More>>>>
bulletWhy Elephants Don't Run And Eagles Don't Fly
A number of years ago, while attending a circus with my children, I noticed a group of elephants in an open area. Each of these gigantic beasts was being held by only a small rope tied to their front leg. There were no chains and no fences around them. It was pretty obvious that the elephants could break away from their bonds at any time, but for some reason they did not. I went over to one of the trainers and asked why these beautiful, magnificent animals just stood there and made no attempt to get away. For More>>>>
bulletThe Small Things You Do For Others Can Leave a Lifetime Impression
We all casually leave lasting impressions on others who come into our life. The least, little courtesy, the simplest, kind word, perhaps a bit of time spent "just being there," or even, I suppose, the most fleeting, careless kindness, like fixing a wheel for a stranger could be a gesture that someone else remembers for the rest of his or her life. For More>>>>
bullet Thank You For Showing Us How To Build Our ‘House” John Lancia
I’ve met a lot of people over the course of my lifetime. Some I remember with fondness and some I would rather forget. A little over two years ago, when I began working as the Marketing Manager for the Hanmer Valley Shopping Centre, I met a quiet, unassuming gentleman who has taught me a lot more about life than he can ever imagine. For More>>>>
bulletEvery Decision You Make Is About Who You Are
What would you say if I told you that it was impossible for you to ever make a wrong decision? You may not always be happy with the results of some of your decisions, but it is impossible to make a ‘wrong decision’.  For more>>>>
bullet“I Just Wish They’d Go Home”

    “What is wrong with the younger generation today?”   Ask any adult that question and inevitably the answer will boil down to the fact that, in general, kids just seem to have a serious lack of respect today. 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 the most visible. For more>>>>

bullet“Where There’s This Much Manure, There’s Gotta Be A Pony”
The latest data we have available shows that the jobless rate in Sudbury is anywhere from 7 to 10%. This is a serious situation which has been getting worse over the years as the rest of the country shows employment and economic growth. For more>>>>
bulletWe’ll Deal With It When We Have To…
It’s strange how you sometimes get the best advice from the most unusual places. The other day I met a young man who was a former student of mine. He told me a story about the birth of his daughter that touched my heart. The baby was born with a minor problem that caused enough concern for the doctor to order a test the next morning. For more>>>>
bullet An Excellent Life Is Nothing More Than The Sum of Many Excellent Moments
I consider myself to have been very fortunate in life. Sure there have been days I would like to forget and I have suffered a lot of set backs and disappointments like anyone else, but, for the most part, my life has been pretty good. One of the reasons I feel this way is that many years ago I learned to accept the principle that where I am today is the sum total of every single thing that has ever happened to me along this journey. For more>>>>
bulletIf We Don’t Act Soon We May Not Have To Worry About A Shortage Of Skilled Trades Workers 
The other day I reviewed the results of an international survey which concluded that Canada has one of the most serious shortages of skilled labour in the industrial world. That didn’t surprise me much. We’ve been hearing for years that our schools must begin to produce more skilled graduates in the trades. What did surprise me, however, is the survey found that employers in Canada are not just having trouble finding employees in the skilled trades field. For more>>>>
bulletWhat Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up? 
“What do you want to be when you grow up?”   That is the million dollar question that has been asked to young people since the beginning of time. More>>>>
bulletHow A Pickle Changed An Entire Community…. 
One of the most important lessons we learn in life is usually due to problems we’ve encountered because we’ve failed to adhere to the following very simple, basic rule. “If You Want To Accomplish Anything, You Must Pay Attention To The Little Details.” More>>>>
bulletThere Is No Such Thing As Failure As Long As You Have The Courage To Try… 
One day two young brothers were in the backyard when their father came home and saw them digging in a hole that was already waist deep. The father came up to them and asked for an explanation. More>>>>
bulletThe Golden Box of Birthday Kisses…
As the story goes, one day a long time ago, a young mother walked into her 5-year old daughter’s bedroom and was extremely upset to see that the little girl had used almost a whole roll of expensive gold wrapping paper to decorate a small package about the size of a shoe box. While severely scolding her daughter, the mother quickly gathered the remaining paper, scotch tape and scissors. The child was told to get her pajamas on and go to bed immediately without watching TV or getting her usual bedtime snack. More>>>
bulletThe Next Time I Think I Have Anything to Complain About…   
It never ceases to amaze me that people who have been through some of the most horrendous challenges this world can throw at them seem to have the most positive outlook towards life. I met a wonderful lady the other day who taught me a great deal about what it means to live one day at a time and how happy you can be if you focus on what is truly important. More>>>
bulletTime - The Most Valued Possession
I want to thank Cindi Cooke for sending me the following email which clearly demonstrates the one thing that we all take for granted, but that is definitely our most valued possession. I don't think the story needs any introduction. The message is clear. More>>>>               
bulletKeep The Memories Of Your Loved Ones Alive This Christmas Season…    
However, no matter how happy we are or how much we enjoy the Christmas festivities, most of us will experience a few sad moments at this time of year as well. More>>>>>
A Very Special Christmas Wish From The Kirwan Family

The Valley East Today Community Web Site and Online News Magazine is a publication of Infocom Canada Business Consultants Inc., a small business owned by the Kirwan Family of Valley East.

Robert and Valerie Kirwan, are shown in the family photo with their three sons: Warren (1977), Ryan (1975) and Marty (1979).

It seems like such a long time since Robert and Valerie moved into their first and only home in Val Therese in 1974 to raise their sons. The family has grown in size since the photo was taken several years ago. Ryan now lives in Val Caron with his wife, Angele, and their two girls, Hailee (2004) and Hannah (2006). Marty is married to Christina and is living in the Guelph area. Warren is residing in Barrie with Cindi Cooke and her two children, Brittney and Austin, while attending Teachers' College at Trent University in Peterborough.

The Kirwan's and their extended family would like to take this time to share some thoughts with our readers.

Christmas is a wonderful time of year, filled with so much joy and happiness. Everyone is attending parties, shopping for gifts, making plans to visit friends and relatives, and generally just trying to keep up with the hectic pace of the holiday season. 

However, no matter how happy we are or how much we enjoy the Christmas festivities, most of us will experience a few sad moments at this time of year as well. Perhaps it will be as you are gazing out the window into the clear night, watching the crisp snow falling to the ground. With Christmas carols playing in the background, you fall into a trance and your mind wanders to those special people who are no longer part of your life, or to some other personal or family crisis that you are experiencing...and you wonder, "How can Christmas ever be the same ?"

We have all endured pain and suffering. It is as much a part of human life as happiness and joy. Without suffering, we wouldn’t know what it means to be truly happy. Yet, with every serious setback in life, it becomes increasingly difficult to get through the season of Christmas without feeling for your loss and without shedding a tear or two. Few of us ever get through the Christmas holiday season without asking that numbing question, "How can Christmas ever be the same?"

It is especially difficult with certain traditions associated with those loved ones that you cherished who are no longer a part of your life. Whether your loss was caused by death, divorce, a family member moving to another place, or for any one of numerous other reasons, the feeling is still the same. You miss that person and for a moment wish that you could shut out the sights and sounds of Christmas. After all, how can you have so much fun without the people who are no longer part of your life?

Whenever you find yourself feeling like this, allow the memories to come flooding in. Allow the good thoughts to fill your head and bring you once again to a state of joy. Instead of feeling down, wondering how things will ever be the same without your loved ones, do your best to recall those important traditions and memories and remember the good times you had with them.

This is also the time of year when a simple smile, a touch on the shoulder, holding hands briefly, a sincere compliment or even a little note of appreciation or recognition can mean the world to those you meet, especially strangers. Reaching out to show that you care and understand how someone else feels is so much easier during the Christmas season because of the overall atmosphere and festive spirit. As you discover the warmth that comes from sharing your love with everyone you meet, you will begin to realize that the memories you have of lost loved ones are cherished more than ever, and instead of making you feel sad, those memories will lift your spirits.

We can’t escape from the fact that things change in our life as we grow older. Some for the good, and some not so good. For obvious reasons, it is usually during the Christmas holiday season that we realize how much things have changed in our life. This year, don’t try to suppress the memories of years gone by. Allow them to make this the best Christmas ever.

So as you go about your activities this Christmas season, take time to enjoy all of the great traditions that have been a part of your life for so many years. Allow time to recall the memories of years gone by so your loved ones will remain part of the festivities, even if they are no longer around. You will find that they can still add a great deal to your holiday, even if they are only here in spirit. And as you reflect upon those memories, allow them to give you the motivation and inspiration to move forward into a new chapter of your life next year.

The Kirwan Family would like to wish everyone a Very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Attitude Is The Key To Dealing With Family Stress During The Holiday Season”

Editorial by Robert Kirwan

December 12, 2006

I once noted in a poll taken by the Southam News that 92% of respondents believe Canadian parents today are under more financial and emotional stress than post-war families of 60 years ago. The results of the poll indicated that many Canadians are suffering from chronic emotional health problems because of the pressure on families today.

   When asked to identify the causes of the stress, respondents indicated that parents are working too hard, too long for too little money; there is a severe lack of job security; there is excessive taxation; many are facing child-rearing problems; and there are a large percentage of families dealing with divorce and marriage breakdowns. It is easy to come to the conclusion that family life is in crisis.

   It is a fact of life that no family escapes from the stress of everyday life. But most will agree that at no time in the year is the stress upon families and individuals greater than it is during the Christmas holiday season.

   As much as people may look forward to Christmas, and even though it is a time for people to get together and visit with friends and relatives, few will argue that Christmas is also one of the most hectic, stress-filled times of the year. If you disagree, just look at the people you come across over the next several days and see how many “happy” faces you can find.

   If you are going to make it through another holiday rush, you must develop strong survival techniques which will control your stress level and allow you to enjoy the beautiful moments of the season. In other words, you must become a calming influence in the middle of a stressful storm of commotion.

   The most important thing you must do is convince yourself that it is absolutely useless to get upset about things that are beyond your control. You can’t always get your own way, no matter how much you complain or wish you could change things. If you must go shopping between now and Christmas, don’t complain about the crowds, the traffic, the high prices, the rudeness or the chaos of life. When you are the tenth person in line at the check-out counter, accept the fact that this is the way it is and nothing you can do will change it. Once you surrender to this actuality you will find a strange sense of peace take over your body.

   Take the little things that happen every day in stride and accept them for what they are - simply life happening. Next time one of your children accidentally knocks over one of your favourite glasses causing it to break on the floor, don’t get all upset and rant and rave about the carelessness of today’s youth. Accept it for what it is - a moment of life that includes a broken glass. Use it to show your child how to carefully pick up the pieces and dispose of them so as not to endanger anyone else. Show the child how to get every last little sliver off the floor. And while you are doing it, think about how many times in your own life you accidentally broke items around the house. It may actually be hard to hide your smile. When it is all over, give your child a hug and remind him or her to be more careful next time.

   If you can change your reactions to negative events so that your response reflects a calm and peaceful acceptance, you will discover that the solutions to these negative moments are readily at hand. And even in the midst of the chaos of Christmas holidays, you will be amazed at how much easier your life will become. Start today! Stop the negativity before it has a chance to spiral out of control. Make Christmas 2006 a truly peaceful time in your family.

   Have a good week!


“Uncovering The Secret”

Editorial by Robert Kirwan

December 5


    An old legend tells of a tribe of people that was continually at war with other tribes. This aggressive tribe murdered and destroyed neighbouring tribes and villages. They had no morals, love or compassion and were extremely greedy and cruel in their pursuit of success.
   A dismayed wise man of a good tribe called a conference of reasonable people in tribes throughout the region. They met to see what they could do to save the people of this aggressive tribe from themselves. After much discussion, they decided to take the secret of personal success and happiness away from those who abused it and hide it from them. One wise man at the meeting asked, “Where can we put it so they won’t find it?”
   One person suggested it be buried deep in the earth; another suggested it be placed on the top of a high mountain. Some suggested it be thrown into the ocean. After all of the suggestions it was agreed that the secret of happiness and success could be too easily found if it was hidden in any of these obvious places.
   Finally, one wise old man who had kept quiet during the conference said, “Let’s hide the secret within the people of the aggressive tribe themselves. People like this will never think to look for happiness and success within themselves.”
   To this day, the violent tribe has continued to pursue success and happiness in many places, never guessing that they possess this true secret to success and happiness within themselves.
   This simple legend tells us a great deal about human nature. So often we spend our days running to and fro attempting to find success and happiness by spending countless hours in an attempt to increase our salary level; being ruthless in our business deals; trying to gain the upper hand on business associates; attempting to beat the stock market; and making sure we have the newest and most expensive collection of toys and gadgets over which to gloat when talking to our neighbours and acquaintances.
   Yet, just as it was with the violent tribe, no matter how much we have, or how powerful we become, we just don’t seem to be truly happy. We want more happiness and more success and are committed to investing more time and energy in finding this happiness and success.
  All of this simply points out how smart the wise old man in the legend really was. He knew that most people think the secret of happiness and success must be searched for and can only be acquired by taking it from someone else. Little do we know that the real secret of happiness and success is actually buried deep within our own self and does not depend on what we have, but on who we are as individuals.
   As we enter the Christmas season there will be many opportunities for personal reflection. It is a time when most of us take a good long look in the mirror and review our situation in life. We will talk at length with family and friends about initiatives we intend to undertake in the New Year to improve ourselves. Most of our plans will be designed to make us happier and more successful in our personal and business ventures.
   Whenever you are immersed in one of those moments of true peace and contentment this Christmas, stop immediately and ask yourself what it is that is making you feel so good at the time. Ask yourself why, at that particular moment, you feel so good and so satisfied. What makes that particular moment in time so different from the others? You will discover that those moments of extreme happiness and joy are times when you have truly discovered yourself. Those are times when you are not being defined by ‘what you have’ but by ‘who you are’ and ‘what you mean to other loved ones in your life’.
   In our search for happiness, let’s not overlook the hiding place that is closest to our heart. For if you really want to find happiness and success, you must look inward, not outward.
   Have a good week!


“The Watermelon Hunter”

Editorial by Robert Kirwan

November 28, 2006


   As I was working on the story for the Canadian Learning Centre, which can be found on the home page of this edition of Valley East Today, I reflected upon their mission statement: “All knowledge is sacred." I found my thoughts drifting off to an article I once read entitled ‘The Watermelon Hunter’. I would like to share it with you at this time.
   “Once upon a time there was a man who strayed from his own country into the world known as the Land of Fools . He soon saw a number of people flying in terror from a field where they had been trying to reap wheat. "There is a monster in that field," they told him. He looked, and saw that the "monster" was merely a watermelon.
   He offered to kill the "monster" for them. When he had cut the melon from its stalk, he took a slice and began to eat it. The people became even more terrified of him than they had been of the melon. They drove him away with pitchforks, crying, "He will kill us next, unless we get rid of him."
   It so happened that shortly afterward another man also strayed into the Land of Fools . But instead of offering to help the people with the "monster," he agreed with them that it must be dangerous, and by tiptoeing away from it with them he gained their confidence. He spent a long time with them in their homes until he could teach them, little by little, the basic facts which would enable them not only to lose their fear of melons, but eventually to cultivate melons themselves.”
   The first person who wandered into the “ Land of Fools ” made the mistake of “killing the monster” for the people. This action may have removed the immediate problem, but it didn’t comfort the “Fools” because they still held on to the original fear that had made them terrified of melons in the first place.
   The second person gained the confidence of the people from the ‘ Land of Fools ’ and was able to slowly teach them basic facts that enabled them to lose their fear of melons.
   And so, the second person in the story helped the people in the ‘ Land of Fools ’ by showing them not only how to overcome their fear of the ‘unknown’, but to also embrace the melons and cultivate them for their own benefit.
   I also reflected on a time early in my career as an elementary school teacher when I learned something very important about my role in the development of effective ‘learning skills’ in my students. One day a student stood up and explained that he would not be able to complete a written assignment that I had just given to the class.  The student explained that he was ‘Educable Mentally Retarded’ and attended special education classes. When the other students began laughing at him, I immediately stopped the lesson and reminded all of the children that someone else’s opinion of them did not have to become their reality. I further told them that no one ever “rises to low expectations” and that as long as they were in my class they were going to be treated as if they were all capable of greatness. I explained that it was my job as their teacher to make sure that they had the skills, confidence and self-esteem to take on any and all challenges and that I would never give them an assignment of which they were not capable of performing. That day changed me forever as a teacher and it changed the way I challenged my students. I adopted the philosophy that if you look at a child the way he is, he only becomes worse. But look at him as if he were what he could be, and then he becomes what he should be.
   From that day forward I always had high expectations of my students, and pushed myself to make sure they all had the skills they needed to “learn for themselves”.
   Remember that there is greatness inside each and every one of us. As parents, we must do everything we can to provide our children with the skills and attitudes that will make them hunger for knowledge. We must teach them not to fear the “melons they come across in their lives”, but rather to embrace them and learn how to “cultivate this new knowledge” for their benefit and for the benefit of others around them.
   Have a good week!


“How Many Potatoes Are You Carrying Around?”

Editorial by Robert Kirwan

November 21, 2006

   I just finished reading what must be the shortest story in the world. It is a story that was written by M. Stanley Bubien and is entitled, “The Unhappiest Man Who Ever Lived”. Let me share the story with you.

   “Forgive? Never!”
   How is that for a powerful story?
   Let me tell you the story again.
   “Forgive? Never!”

   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 met him?

   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 brought a couple of huge sacks of potatoes to class one day. She told her students to think of people they have refused to forgive for whatever it was that they said or did to them. All of the students could think of quite a number of people who had done something to them that was absolutely unforgivable. The teacher then instructed the students to take one potato from the sack for each person for whom they could not forgive and write the name of that person on the potato. Each student then put their potatoes inside a clear plastic bag and were told to carry that bag with them everywhere they went for one full week. They were to put the bag beside their bed at night, on the car seat when driving, next to their desk at work, at the dinner table, etc.

   The students experienced the inconvenience of lugging this bag of potatoes around with them. Naturally, the condition of the potatoes deteriorated to a nasty smelly slime. This was a great metaphor for the price we pay for the emotional baggage we carry around with us when we refuse to forgive others for the pain they have caused during our life’s experiences. The message came across loud and clear to the students who suddenly realized that while we often think of forgiveness as a gift TO the other person, it is actually a gift FOR ourselves to get rid of these nasty feelings that we harbour inside.”

   It is too easy to blame others for our problems. When this becomes a personal habit, we tend to blame others for all of 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 as well as for your reactions to others around you. 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 the person who has done you wrong is not so much a gift to that person, 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. You can apply this philosophy to virtually all situations in which you find yourself unable to forgive another person.

   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 someone has done something to you that can never be forgiven, remember the story about ‘The Unhappiest Man Who Ever Lived’. Get rid of your potatoes and enjoy life.

   Have a good week!


“Celebrate National Adult Day With A Child This Weekend…” 

Editorial by Robert Kirwan

November 14, 2006


   Monday, November 20 is National Child Day. If you are like most parents you may take the position that “every day” is child day. When do we get a “National Adult Day”?

   Nevertheless, even though the designation of November 20 as National Child Day is part of an act of the Parliament of Canada that was passed in 1993 to draw attention to the rights of so many disadvantaged children in the world, it is a good time for parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and good friends to sit back and take a good long look at these “little people” who will soon become adults just like the rest of us.

   National Child Day is a time for us to celebrate children for who they are – right now!

   We can learn a lot from watching a child. One thing we learn is that for children, life is made up of individual moments, and the most precious of those moments is the one that is occurring now - in “real time”. Not yesterday’s or tomorrow’s moment, but the one that is happening right now!

   Children, especially young children, live in the present. They devote their entire energy to enjoying the best that the present has to offer. They do not let worries about the past bother them. Nor do they let concerns about the future get in the way of their savouring of the present moment. As I watch my granddaughter sitting quietly on the couch eating her “goldfish crackers” and drinking her “juice”, she could care less about what is on television, the toys strewn all over the living room floor or that it is almost bed time. She just calmly accepts that now is the time to simply enjoy her crackers and juice and nothing else matters.
   It’s is hard to imagine how children can be so wise at such a young age. And equally hard to understand how, as we grow older, we seem to lose a lot of that wisdom. For example, children seem to understand that life is a series of experiences, each important unto itself, and each deserving of one’s total attention. By devoting their energy to what they are doing at the moment, and then moving on with the same zestful approach to the next, children get the most out of everything they do and end up with the best chance of developing a very healthy personality and character. They show a lot of wisdom about how to get the most out of life and how to become the “best you can be”.
   So what happens to this wisdom as we grow older and become adults. Why do we keep worrying about what went on yesterday; what we are doing tomorrow; mistakes we have made in the past; and concerns about how we will manage tomorrow? How is it that we can be so wise as children and then as adults we forget how important it is to focus on the present?

   As adults we have the “intellectual capacity” to identify meaningful goals and plans for the future; to have routines that will ensure that our home is clean and orderly; to shop for nutritious food in order to prepare meals for our family; to find suitable employment in order to provide the basic necessities of survival; and to organize a stimulating environment for our children. And yet, we seem to lose some of the “wisdom” we had as a child. We lose the wisdom that helps us get the most out of what we do during the day; to go from one experience to another, allowing those experiences to add to our “total being” and help fulfill our basic human instinct to grow as individuals.

   And so, this weekend, I would urge all parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and adults everywhere to find one or more children and simply “be with them”, even if only for a short while. Learn all you can from them. Watch the “Dora” video for the 200th time. Put the puzzle of the “wheat field” together for the 10th time. Build the tower of blocks and knock them down ten or twenty times in a row, and laugh yourself silly with the child each time. And sit down once in a while on the couch to enjoy the “goldfish crackers” and “grape juice”.
   Do all of this and I guarantee that you will indeed feel as if you have just celebrated “National Adult Day”. I have to go now. My granddaughter wants to press the up and down arrows on the keyboard so that she can see pictures of her “Grandpa” on the computer screen.

   Have a good week!


“The Moments That Stand Out In Your Life…” 

Editorial by Robert Kirwan

November 7

    Henry Drummond once wrote, “You will find, as you look back upon your life, that the moments that stand out are the moments when you have done things for others.”

   I thought about that quote the other day as I sat in the parish hall at PAROISSE STE-MARGUERITE-D'YOUVILLE during the Chevaliers de Colomb Spaghetti Dinner. Close to 500 people enjoyed a dinner that was prepared and served by members of the parish who were volunteering their time for this event. Despite the energy it took to put this wonderful dinner on, not one of those volunteers looked tired. They were all smiling and joking with everyone in the hall and just seemed to be thoroughly enjoying themselves.

   While I was eating my spaghetti, my thoughts drifted back a couple of weeks in time to the PAROISSE STE-JACQUES parish hall, where I had once again come across some hard working volunteers who had organized a special fund-raising event in support of Monique Laderoute who was forced to evacuate from her home in Lebanon. Once again, I recalled that all of those people who were giving of their time to help Monique seemed to be so happy and at peace with what they were doing.
   Just last week I watched the volunteers from LE CENTRE CLUB AGE d'OR DE LA VALLEE put on a marvelous luncheon for visitors from Greater Sudbury Community Living association.

   I thought about the ladies from St. James in The Valley United Church; and the members of the Valley East Lions Club; and ALL of the volunteers from the various groups and organizations who have chosen to work for the benefit of others. I remembered Anne Unwin and her volunteers at the Good Neighbours Food Bank, dealing with the despair of people who were down on their luck and in need of emergency food supplies. Not one of Anne’s volunteers have ever demonstrated any negative sign of emotional distress themselves. They are always happy and in a good mood. The same can be said about the Georgette Bergeron and her volunteers at the CERCLE MISSIONNAIRE de la VALLEE.
   As I was cleaning off my plate my thoughts drifted to the Chevaliers du Colomb #5005 hall on Emily Street where I recently saw the awesome mobile blood donor clinic in operation. While speaking to Robert Plourde and Roger Menard I could sense a tremendous feeling of satisfaction at what these men and their team of a dozen or more volunteers were doing along with Councils #7368; #10602; and #9922 as each took their turns sponsoring the monthly clinics. Not once did I see a volunteer looking stressed out or tired at the clinic.  

   I sat for a few moments in silence, simply taking in the breath-taking atmosphere of the spaghetti dinner and recalled an old Chinese tale about a woman whose only son died. In her grief, she went to the holy man and said, "What prayers, what magical incantations do you have to bring my son back to life?"
   Instead of sending her away or reasoning with her, he said to her, "Fetch me a mustard seed from a home that has never known sorrow. We will use it to drive the sorrow out of your life." The woman went off at once in search of that magical mustard seed.
   She came first to a splendid mansion, knocked at the door, and said, "I am looking for a home that has never known sorrow. Is this such a place? It is very important to me."
   They told her, "You've certainly come to the wrong place," and began to describe all the tragic things that recently had befallen them.
   The woman said to herself, "Who is better able to help these poor, unfortunate people than I, who have had misfortune of my own?" She stayed to comfort them, then went on in search of a home that had never known sorrow.
   But wherever she turned, in hovels and in other places, she found one tale after another of sadness and misfortune. She became so involved in ministering to other people's grief that ultimately she forgot about her quest for the magical mustard seed, never realizing that it had, in fact, driven the sorrow out of her life.
   I had come to the church that evening to do a story about a spaghetti dinner. As I was leaving, I said good bye to my good friend Gerry Chartrand who reminded me about the Sunday Brunch he was organizing the following week. He thanked me for coming to their spaghetti dinner and for doing a story that would appear in The Vision. But I knew that it was I who should be thanking him and all of the other volunteers I had come across that evening and in the weeks prior. This was definitely a moment that was going to stand out in my life.
   And so, if you are ever feeling down and out yourself, or if you have sorrow of some kind in your own life, remember the lesson that was learned by the old Chinese woman. Find a place where you can volunteer your time to help others and you will be surprised at how quickly your own sorrows seem to disappear.
   Have a good week!


“Understanding True Love Is Often A Matter of Time…” 

Editorial by Robert Kirwan

October 31, 2006

   One day recently I was going through my old year book from Lively High School when I came across a photo of my Grade 13 English Teacher. It brought back memories of how everyone in our class hated this man. He was always so demanding and hard on us at the time. It took an enormous amount of work and effort to get a mark of 60 or 70% in his class.
   As I looked at his picture, I also recalled that there have been many times in my life when I thought back to those days in that Grade 13 English class and I realized that this man taught me a lot more than how to read and write. He taught me that I could achieve far more than I thought I was capable of through hard work and self discipline. I didn’t realize it at the time, but he was actually doing me a favour and was really acting out of love for all of us in the class.  He knew what we would need in order to compete in the world that lay ahead of us. And he forced us to reach beyond ourselves in order to come close to our true potential.
   Whenever I read the following story, I think about my old Grade 13 English teacher. In fact, I think I will dedicate this editorial to all the former students of mine who thought I was being too hard on them when I demanded a level of excellence of which they thought they were incapable.
   Once upon a time there was an island where all the feelings lived; happiness, sadness, knowledge, and all the others, including love. One day it was announced to all of the feelings that the island was going to sink to the bottom of the ocean, so all of the feelings prepared their boats to leave. Love was the only one that stayed. She wanted to preserve the island paradise until the last possible moment. When the island was almost totally under, Love decided it was time to leave. She began looking for someone to ask for help.
   Just then Richness was passing by in a grand boat. Love asked, "Richness, can I come with you on your boat?" Richness answered, “I’m sorry, but there is a lot of silver and gold on my boat and there would be no room for you anywhere."
   Then Love decided to ask Vanity for help who was passing in a beautiful vessel. Love cried out, "Vanity, help me please."  "I can't help you", Vanity said, “You are all wet and will damage my beautiful boat."
   Next, Love saw Sadness passing by. Love said, “Sadness, please let me go with you."  Sadness answered, "Love, I'm sorry, but, I just need to be alone now."
   Then, Love saw Happiness. Love cried out, " Happiness, please take me with you."  But Happiness was so overjoyed that he didn't hear Love calling to him. Love began to cry.
   Then, she heard a voice say, "Come Love, I will take you with me." It was an older person. Love felt so blessed and grateful that she forgot to ask the elder his name. When they arrived on land the elder went on his way.
   Love realized how much she owed the elder. Love then found Knowledge and asked, "Who was that elder person who helped me?"
   "It was Time", Knowledge answered.
   "But why did Time help me when no one else would?” Love asked.
   Knowledge smiled and with deep wisdom and sincerity, answered, "Because only Time is capable of understanding how great Love is."

   Isn’t this so true? 

   Most of us, at some point in our life, have looked back and understood that we were actually treated with great love and compassion by people who, at the time, seemed to be anything but loving. The teacher in elementary school who was so hard on you and with whom you were always getting into trouble; a parent who would never let you stay out as late as your friends; a coach who was always on your case to try harder; or, even a Grade 13 English teacher.
   We have all encountered many people who demonstrate their love in different, strange ways which are disguised until time takes away that disguise.  Sometimes the people who give in to all of your demands, flood you with lavish gifts and money, and let you do whatever you want do not really love you at all but are merely responding for some ulterior motive.
   Often times the people who seem to be the hardest and most demanding on you are the ones who really, truly love you with all of their heart. 

   All too often, it takes TIME for us to understand how great that Love really was.
   Have a good week!


“An Invitation To Move To The I Can Do It Street

Editorial by Robert Kirwan

October 24, 2006

   As I sit here typing this editorial I am looking at a small piece of paper that is taped to the top edge of my computer desk. On that paper is written one of my favourite inspirational quotes. I look at it often, especially when I come to a decision that could end up being a major turning point in my life. The quote is, “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do, than by the things you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the tradewinds in your sails. Explore! Dream! Discover!”
   And so, this past spring I decided that I would follow that advice and have embarked on a personal journey which could allow me to start a whole new career of service that will not only change the rest of my life but will also enable me to make a real difference in the lives of the people around me. I remember that as I was considering whether or not to accept this tremendous challenge I would often stare at the quote above my computer and I realized that if I turned down this opportunity I might regret it for the rest of my life.
   The thing that finally convinced me to go ahead with my decision was a little article I came across written by Larry Harp, called ‘Leaving The City of Regret”. Let me share the story in the author’s own words. As you are reading it, think about what is going on in your own life right now and see if Larry Harp has a message for you in the story.
   I had not really planned on taking a trip this time of year, and yet I found myself packing rather hurriedly. This trip was going to be unpleasant and I knew in advance that no real good would come of it. I'm talking about my annual "GUILT TRIP."

    I got tickets to fly there on Wish I Had airlines. It was an extremely short flight. I got my baggage, which I could not check. I chose to carry it myself all the way. It was weighted down with a thousand memories of what might have been. No one greeted me as I entered the terminal to the Regret City International Airport . I say international because people from all over the world come to this dismal town.

   As I checked into the Last Resort Hotel, I noticed that they would be hosting the year's most important event, the Annual Pity Party. I wasn't going to miss that great social occasion. Many of the leading citizens in town would be there.

   First, there would be the Done family. You know, Should Have, Would Have and Could Have. Then came the I Had family. You probably know ol' Wish I Had and his clan. Of course, the Opportunities would be present; Missed and Lost. The biggest family would be the Yesterday's. There are far too many of them to count, but each one would have a very sad story to share.

   Then Shattered Dreams would surely make an appearance. And It's Their Fault would regale us with stories (excuses) about how things had failed in his life, and each story would be loudly applauded by Don't Blame Me and I Couldn't Help It. 

   Well, to make a long story short, I went to this depressing party knowing that there would be no real benefit in doing so. And, as usual, I became very depressed. But as I thought about all of the stories of failures brought back from the past, it occurred to me that all of this trip and subsequent "pity party" could be cancelled by ME! I started to truly realize that I did not have to be there. I didn't have to be depressed. One thing kept going through my mind, I CAN'T CHANGE YESTERDAY, BUT I DO HAVE THE POWER TO MAKE TODAY A WONDERFUL DAY. I can be happy, joyous, fulfilled, encouraged, as well as encouraging. Knowing this, I left the City of Regret
immediately and left no forwarding address.”
   Once I finished reading the story I was convinced that there was only one real choice for me to make. I simply had to step forward and accept this new challenge and the opportunity to be of service to my community. And so here I am. No matter what happens during the rest of my life, I will always have the satisfaction of knowing that I tried. Of having thrown off the bowlines and sailed from the safe harbour. This has been a personal journey of discovery and fulfillment. 

Above all else, I am happy and proud to say that I live on I CAN DO IT STREET

There is plenty of room on that street. 

Come and be my neighbour!
   Have a good week!


“Wasted The Whole Day Fishing With Jimmy. Didn’t Catch A Thing.”

Editorial by Robert Kirwan

October 17, 2006

   The other day I had a moment of inspiration and decided to clean out the basement. I knew that there was a lot of junk that was just taking up space and it was time to get rid of a few things. 

   As I was sorting out one of the bookshelves, I came across several beat-up old binders that contained photos that had been taken many years ago while our children were growing up. My wife had organized them into different years and special moments in the lives of our family. As I looked at the expressions on the faces of the “young children” in the photos, it made me realize just how many “special moments” there were in my life as a parent.  The old photos brought back a lot of memories, but I couldn’t help but notice that the expressions on the faces of my children seemed to indicate that they were enjoying themselves much more than I was.

   Then, as I turned one of the pages in the album, a wrinkled old paper fell out that put everything into perspective.
   It contained a story about an old man who was going through a stack of boxes in his attic, coming upon one old photograph album after another, much like what I was just doing in the basement. He was actually looking for an old photo of his wife, who had recently passed away due to a lengthy illness.  Let me share the rest of the story with you…
   Silent as a mouse, he patiently opened the long-buried treasures and soon was lost in a sea of memories.  Setting aside one of the dusty albums, he pulled from the box what appeared to be a journal from his grown son's childhood. He could not recall ever having seen it before, or that his son had ever kept a journal.
   “Why did
Elizabeth always save the children's old junk?” he wondered, shaking his white head. Opening the yellowed pages, he glanced over a short entry, and his lips curved in an unconscious smile. Even his eyes brightened as he read the words that spoke clear and sweet to his soul.
   It was the voice of the little boy who had grown up far too fast in this very house, and whose voice had grown fainter and fainter over the years. In the utter silence of the attic, the words of an innocent six-year-old worked their magic and carried the old man back to a time almost totally forgotten.
   Entry after entry stirred a sentimental hunger in his heart, but it was accompanied by the painful memory that his son's simple recollections of those days were far different from his own. But how different?
   Reminded that he had kept a daily journal of his business activities over the years, he closed his son's journal and turned to leave, having forgotten the cherished photo that originally triggered his search.
   Hunched over to keep from bumping his head on the rafters, the old man stepped to the wooden stairway and made his descent, then headed down a carpeted stairway that led to the den.
   Opening a glass cabinet door, he reached in and pulled out an old business journal. Turning, he sat down at his desk and placed the two journals beside each other.
   His was leather bound and engraved neatly with his name in gold, while his son's was tattered and the name "Jimmy" had been nearly scuffed from its surface. He ran a long skinny finger over the letters, as though he could restore what had been worn away with time and use.
   As he opened his journal, the old man's eyes fell upon an inscription that stood out because it was so brief in comparison to other days. In his own neat handwriting were these words:  

Wasted the whole day fishing with Jimmy. Didn't catch a thing.

With a deep sigh and a shaking hand, he took Jimmy's journal and found the boy's entry for the same day, June 4. Large scrawling letters pressed deeply in the paper read:  

Went fishing with my dad. Best day of my life!
   This week I want to leave one simple message to all young parents reading this editorial. 

Please don't ever forget to make time for the most important people in your never know the impact the moments you share together will have on both of you. 

And to all of the older parents, and fellow grandparents, it’s never too late to make time. 

Do it while you can.
   Have a good week!



“The Mystery of Life…

A Lot of Questions With No Answers…”

Editorial by Robert Kirwan

October 10, 2006

   With all of the recent school shootings in Canada and the United States as well as the ever increasing pressure and stress being experienced by virtually all age groups in society, it is certainly no surprise that many people are asking themselves a lot of serious questions about life in general.

   A number of years ago, when I was teaching at St. Anne School , one of the girls in my Grade 7 class, Stephanie Bennett, wrote an essay that touched my heart and has remained one of my all-time favourites, even though it was written by a teen age girl as an English assignment. As adults we often think that children are arrogant and cocky, acting as if  they have all of the answers. In fact, they are usually the complete opposite. They are the ones with many of the questions. And the questions they ask are no different from the ones that adults struggle with every day.

Stephanie’s essay was entitled, “Losing Someone...” I think you will find it very appropriate in light of what each of us may be going through in our own lives right now. Remember that she was writing this essay five years after the incident.

   “I believe losing someone to death is the hardest thing a person can endure. People think death is scary, which is possibly true. I think dying in a hospital is the worst. My Grandpa died in a hospital and watching my dad cry was the hardest.

I was seven but devastated. I remember when I used to take candy from his candy dish. When he caught me he’d say something like, “Don’t you like the black candy babies?” I would say “yes” even though I don’t, just to make him happy.

   I don’t understand life. When we die, do we go to Heaven or Hell? How can the Lord judge someone by good or bad? Some people live a meaningless life where they are abused each day and slavery rules. Why would God want people to suffer? Did I lead a previous life? Who is my Guardian Angel? Are the apocalypse predictions true?

My Dad and Grandpa were going to go on a ski trip to Alaska
, but Grandpa had a stroke and couldn’t go. I plan, when I’m older, to take my Dad before it’s too late for him too. Life is a precious thing from God, and we should live life to the fullest.”

   I didn’t have any answers for Stephanie. I could have given her many explanations and rationalize a lot of what happens,  but when all is said and done the final conclusion will still come down to the fact that no one really understands life.

Why do bad things happen to good people? Why do some people suffer so much and other people go through life with no problems or worries? Who decides? Is life all planned out when we are born? Do we really have any control over our own destiny?

Life is a mystery. So it stands to reason that death would be even more of a mystery. Stephanie is not the only one with questions. We all have them. But I was impressed that this young 12 year old girl was years ahead of herself in terms of wisdom. She understood at a young age that life is precious and that we should all live life to the fullest. She also understood that if you want to do something with a loved one, the earlier the better. You never know when you will get a second chance. Enjoy your skiing trip with your Dad, Stephanie. I know he will love every minute of it.

We must remember that there isn’t anything wrong with asking questions about life. Without questions we would never have an opportunity to think about answers, and we would never have an opportunity to realize that life is just one big mystery with no solution – it is merely a journey full of surprises and many, many more questions.

   We should all
take Stephanie’s advice. Go on that skiing trip with your parents. Plan that vacation with your children. Spend a weekend away in a cabin alone with your husband or wife. Send your wife a bouquet of flowers for no reason. Don’t wait until it’s too late - you never know when you’ll get that second chance.

Have a good week!

  "The Golden Windows..."

Editorial by Robert Kirwan

October 3, 2006

   I consider myself to be a pretty lucky person. In my role as the main writer for The Vision Paper, I get to meet a lot of wonderful people of all ages from all walks of life in Valley East . My responsibilities as the marketing director of the Hanmer Valley Shopping Centre also afford me many opportunities to encounter local residents who are actively involved with the churches, sports organizations and service groups.
   However, perhaps because of the 28 years I spent as a classroom teacher, I always enjoy getting into the schools where I can talk to young boys and girls who have so many questions about the exciting, yet unpredictable future that lies ahead of them.
   One boy I met recently spoke about how he felt about living in
Valley East . “ Sudbury is such a terrible place to grow up. I can’t wait to move away from this dump and live in Southern Ontario . Everything is big and modern down there. Life must be wonderful in the big city.
   I sat down with the young lad and told him that I understood how he felt. “
What you are feeling is quite normal. Even adults often think that things would be better in other circumstances. We are always looking for better jobs, better houses, better places to vacation, etc. A lot of people think that Sudbury is a dump, and not a place where they want to spend the rest of their life.”
   I then told him a little story called, “The Golden Windows”.
   There was once a young boy living on a farm which seemed like it was so far away from everywhere. He needed to get up before sunrise every morning to start his chores and then go out again later to do the evening ones. During sunrise he would take a break and climb up on the fence so in the distance he could see the house with golden windows. He thought how great it would be to live there and his mind would wander to imagine the modern equipment and appliances that might exist in the house.
   "If they can afford golden windows, then they must have other nice things too." He promised himself that some day he would go there and see this wonderful place for himself.
   Then one morning his father told him to stay home and his father would do the chores. Knowing that this was his chance, he packed a sandwich and headed across the field towards the house with the golden windows.
   As the afternoon went on, he began to realize how he misjudged the distance, but something else was also very wrong. As he approached the house, he saw no golden windows, but instead a place with a broken down fence. He went to the tattered screen door and knocked. A boy very close to his own age opened the door.
   He asked him if he has seen the house with the golden windows. The boy said, "Sure, I know." and invited him to sit on the porch. As he sat there, he looked back from where he just came where the sunset turned the windows on his own home to Gold.
   And so, I said to the young boy I was speaking to that day, and I say to all of my readers, regardless of your age or personal circumstance, what appears in life to be "golden" is sometimes just an illusion. You may not realize it, but there are a lot of things about living in the
Sudbury area, and Valley East in particular, that people in other places would love. To them, you are the lucky ones. You have everything they are looking for - all you have to do is look at things the right way.
   In the story, the first boy saw the sun reflecting on the distant windows each morning. To him, that was the place where all the riches lie. To the other boy, who saw the sun reflecting on the first boy’s windows as the sun set in the evening that was where the riches must surely lie. It’s all a matter of perception.
   I told the young boy that he will soon have his chance to discover for himself what lies outside this region. However, all I asked of him was that he would every once in a while look back to where he was coming from and see the golden windows that we have right here in
Valley East .

   Have a good week!


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