Reflections 2007 
Written by Robert Kirwan

The following articles were written during 2007 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 

bullet"How Did You Get Here?
bulletRunning in the rain…
bulletKids Know What Really Makes A Person Rich
bulletThe Pareto Principle
bulletKeep Your Fork, The Best Is Yet To Come!
bulletWho’s Driving Your Bus?
bulletA Bowl For Grandpa
bulletTake A Long Look At Your Speedometer: Is It Worth The Time You Save?
bullet“Whatever You Are Doing In Your Life Right Now Is Exactly What You Are Supposed To Be Doing”
bulletWhat Are We Doing In This Cage In The Middle of A Zoo
bulletThe Day I Decided To Stop Teaching Reading , Writing and Arithmetic
bullet“This Would Be Funny If It Wasn’t So Close To The Truth”
bulletThe One Thing Everyone Needs In Life
bulletLiving A Life That Matters Is All About Being Nice
bulletMake the Most Of Your True Talents And Keep Your Dreams Alive
bulletA Message To All Teachers: Don’t Forget To Sharpen Your Ax.”
bullet“Welcome To Holland ! You’ll Be Here For A Long Time So Enjoy Your Stay.”
bulletYou Cannot Discover New Land Unless You Have The Courage To Lose Sight of The Shore
bulletLook To Your Weaknesses To Discover Your Strengths
bullet“I Want To Do It Myself”


bulletLife Is All About Making The Right Choices
bulletRaising The Standards Among Our Youth 
bulletWe’re Raising Children, Not Flowers.
bulletIf You Pick Moss, Don’t Expect Blueberry Pie  
bulletThere Is Nothing Ordinary About An Ordinary Day
bulletIt’s Time For All Graduates To Notice The River
bulletWe're all in This Together Let's Use The Community Circle of Support
bulletLook For Creative Ways Of Making People You Meet Feel Special
bulletEducation Week Is An Important Week For "Family Managers"
bulletThe Five Most Dangerous Words In The English Language
bulletDon’t Pay Attention To The Losers Around You – Rise Above Them
bulletEnduring Life’s Challenges Will Give You The Strength To Reach Your Treasure
bulletDecide On Your Big Goals First And Stay Focused!
bulletUse The Triple Filter Method The Next Time You Hear A Rumour
bullet“If You Always Do What You’ve Always Done You’ll Always Get What You’ve Always Got”
bullet“Giving Up The Good Now For A Better Future”
bullet In This World You Tend To Get What You Expect So Make Sure You Set Your Sights High
bullet No Matter Where You Go or Who You Become Never Forget Who Helped You Get There
bullet Take Time To Read The Handwriting On The Wall
bulletBreak Through The Terror Barrier and Set Yourself Free

"How Did You Get Here?

Editorial by Robert Kirwan

December 11, 2007


   I swear to God, and with no disrespect intended to any of my friends and acquaintances, I have never met anyone in my whole life who is as intellectually stimulating as my 3 and a half year old granddaughter, Hailee. The things that come out of her mouth are absolutely incredible and could form the basis for a university philosophy course.

   I am sure that every grandparent feels the exact same way about their own grandchildren, but it just amazes me that innocent young children can have such a capacity for making you dig deep into your own mind to discover the true meaning of life.
   The other day Hailee and my wife were walking around the Hart Department Store looking at toys, as usual. After I finished taking care of some business I had elsewhere in the mall I walked up silently behind them while they were standing in one of the aisles. They didn’t see me coming. As Hailee raised her head she spotted me beside her.  She then looked directly into my eyes without changing the expression on her face, paused for a moment, and then asked me a simple question that has been on my mind ever since.

   Her question: “How did you get here?”

   If she had asked, “Where did you come from?” or “When did you get here?” or even if she had looked surprised and laughed while she asked the question, it may not have had the same effect. But it was the way she looked straight into my eyes, no expression on her face, paused for a moment and then delivered the question, “How did you get here?”

   We continued with our visit to the store and walked around the mall before returning Hailee to her home later on in the afternoon, but I have been asking myself that question over and over ever since.

   In my entire 57 years of living I have made so many life-altering decisions that at the time did not seem all that important, however, had I made a different decision at the time in ANY one of those situations, I would not have ended up in that aisle in the store that day, standing beside my granddaughter and my wife. A simple question: "How did you get here?"
   Perhaps the question would not have had as much of an impact on me but I had just watched a movie the night before called “A Magic Christmas” (at least I think that is the title of the movie).  It was about a lady who was having difficulties in life and who was forced through some tragic circumstances to imagine what her life would be like if she lost her husband and two children. She was allowed to go back in time during Christmas Eve and make different choices in a couple of situations that saved her husband and children from an accidental death.

   I will also take time during the holidays to watch my favourite movie of all time, “It’s A Wonderful Life” starring James Stewart. It always makes me feel grateful for the life I am now experiencing by demonstrating that everyone you have in your life and every good thing that you like about your life is the sum total of the results of every single decision you have ever made in the past. One different decision could have changed EVERYTHING.

   And so, as I continue on my own “Journey of Life”, I take things day-by-day, making countless decisions that will in their own way each alter the course of my life and in the lives of the people I meet. I have learned that it is important to make each decision as wisely as possible, based on the knowledge you have at the time, and then to move on without regret. Every previous decision has been part of the answer to the question, “How did you get here?” And every choice I make today, the day after today and all of the days thereafter will form part of the answer the next time I am asked that question.

   And so, Hailee, I can certainly go back over the decisions I made yesterday, and the yesterdays before that, and I can definitely trace my steps back in time to determine the answer to the question, “How Did You Get Here?” What I can’t understand is “why” I made some of those choices. I can only be thankful that I made the choices I did, because I could never imagine myself being anywhere else but beside you and your Grandma in that store listening to your question, “How Did You Get Here?”
   Have a good week!


Running in the rain…

Editorial by Robert Kirwan

December 4, 2007


   I want to thank my good friend, Cecile Coutu, for sending me an email recently that contained a little story that touched my heart so much I decided to share it with all of my readers this week.
   It is about a little girl who was out shopping with her mother. She must have been 6 years old, this beautiful red haired, freckle faced image of innocence. It was pouring outside. The kind of rain that gushes over the top of rain gutters, so much in a hurry to hit the earth it has no time to flow down the spout. Everyone stood there under the awning and just inside the door of the store waiting for the rain to subside so that they could dash to their vehicles. Some waited patiently, others irritated because nature messed up their hurried day.

   The little voice was so sweet as it broke the hypnotic trance everyone was caught in, “Mom let's run through the rain,” she said.
   “What?” Mom asked.

   “Let’s run through the rain!” She repeated.

   “No, honey. We'll wait until it slows down a bit,” Mom replied.

   The young child waited about another minute and repeated: “Mom, let's run through the rain.”

   “We'll get soaked if we do,” Mom said.

   “No, we won't, Mom. That's not what you said this morning,” the young girl said as she tugged at her Mom's arm.

   This morning? When did I say we could run through the rain and not get wet?”

   “Don't you remember? When you were talking to Daddy about his cancer, you said, 'If God can get us through this, he can get us through anything!'

   The entire crowd stopped dead silent. You couldn't hear anything but the rain. Everyone stood silently. No one came or left in the next few minutes.

   Mom paused and thought for a moment about what she would say. Some mothers would likely laugh it off and scold the little girl for being silly. Some might even ignore what was said. But this was a moment of affirmation in a young child's life. A time when innocent trust can be nurtured so that it will bloom into faith.

   “Honey, you are absolutely right. Let's run through the rain. If GOD let's us get wet, well maybe we just needed washing,” Mom said.

   Then off they ran. The other shoppers just stood watching, smiling and laughing as the mother and her daughter darted past the cars and yes, through the puddles. They held their shopping bags over their heads, and yes, they got soaked.

   But in the next few minutes the mother and daughter were followed by other shoppers who screamed and laughed like children all the way to their cars. They all got wet. Perhaps they just needed washing.
   When I finished reading the story it took me a few minutes to go on to my next email. My mind began to wander back to memories of my own children and the times my wife and I did things with them that at the time seemed downright silly, but were nonetheless fun. I could see my own grand daughters pulling at my hand to bring me away from the final minutes of the football game to their playroom to give me an imaginary cake that they had just baked in their little kitchen. Or the time they wanted me to climb onto their new trampoline with them and I thought,  “why not” as I joined them bouncing around for a few minutes without caring what others would say about a 57 year old grandfather up there acting like a kid with these two tiny girls.
   The story reminded me that “circumstances or people can take away your material possessions, they can take away your money, and they can take away your health. But no one can ever take away your precious memories...So, don't forget to make time and take the opportunities to make memories everyday. To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under heaven.
   I don’t expect that we will have much rain for the next few months, but this winter I plan on taking time to run through the snow and perhaps maybe even make a “snow angel” or two just to make some more memories with those two little girls.

   Have a good week!


Kids Know What Really Makes A Person Rich

Editorial by Robert Kirwan

November 27, 2007

   In this era of huge lottery winners, multi-millionaire athletes and entertainers, and corporate billionaires spending insane amounts on personal luxuries, it is hard for a lot of us to accept that so many people are still living in poverty in this country. It is hard for us to accept that thousands of people must rely upon food banks every week or that there are people who struggle to survive in “poverty” while on social assistance or earning minimum wages at part-time jobs.

   With all of these fabulously rich people acting as role models for the younger generation we could hardly be blamed for expecting that our own children might consider most of us normal parents as failures in comparison.

   Thankfully for us, children tent to have a far better perspective on wealth than most adults. To illustrate this point, consider the lesson the young child in the following story taught his father.

   “One day a father of a very wealthy family took his son on a trip to the country with the firm purpose of showing his son how poor some people can be. They spent a couple of days and  nights on the farm of what would be considered a very poor family.

   On their return from the country, the father asked his son how he liked the trip. The son replied, “It was great, Dad.”

   “Did you see how poor people can be?” the father asked.

   “Oh, yeah,” said the son.

   “So what did you learn from the trip?” asked the father.

   The son answered, “I saw that we have one dog and they had four. We have a pool that reaches to the middle of our back yard and they have a creek that has no end. We have imported lanterns in our garden and they have the stars at night. Our patio reaches to the front yard and they have the whole horizon. We have a small piece of land to live on and they have fields that go beyond our sight. We have servants who serve us, but they serve each other. We buy our food, but they grow theirs. We have walls around our property to protect us; they have friends to protect them.”

   With this the boy’s father was speechless.

   Then his son added, “Thanks dad for showing me how poor we are.”

   How many times are we as adults guilty of overlooking all of the good things we have in our life and instead concentrating on what we don’t have? We’re obviously aware that one person’s worthless object is another’s prize possession. Just look at the yard sales in the summer. Thousands of people go from one yard sale to another finding treasures that others are willing to part with. Value is all based on one’s perspective.
   The other day my wife and I took one of our granddaughters to the Hart Department Store. She likes walking through the aisles looking at all of the toys. On this occasion, however, she stopped at one of the displays and spent what seemed to be forever playing with a couple of little empty boxes that had been left on the shelf. They were odd shaped and could be inserted into each other. The rest of the toys didn’t matter to her. She was thrilled to spend time playing with the empty boxes.
   When our granddaughters come over to the house lately their favourite activity is looking through an empty wrapping paper roll. It has become their telescope.  Another activity of our oldest is to help her “grandmother” cooking at the counter by mixing ingredients into a bowl. My wife keeps a number of these ingredients in containers that can be used over and over again by this little girl who can spend an hour mixing at the counter. Her expensive toys remain in her playroom. She can have her toys any time. Spending time cooking with Grandma is precious to her.
   The father in the story today thought he was rich and the farmer was poor. Perhaps the farmer felt the same way. As adults we tend to have different benchmarks to measure success.
   However, when viewed through the eyes of the young boy, the farmer was the fortunate one - the one with all of the truly prized possessions - especially the ones that money cannot buy.

   So next time you find yourself wishing you could trade places with some rich and famous person you see on television or read about in the magazines, look around you and open your eyes to the richness of your life, and take note of those things that their money cannot buy - the things that really make you wealthy.

   Have a good week!


The Pareto Principle

Editorial by Robert Kirwan

November 20, 2007


   Some of you are already aware of the “Pareto Principle”. Others may never have heard of it. Regardless, I am absolutely positive that everyone has applied the Pareto Principle many times in their life – including you.
   I was first introduced to the “Pareto Principle” when I was a teenager and began my first summer job with INCO. Those were the days when there were 20,000 employees and the company hired over 3000 students to work every summer as vacation relief. There was no such thing as a summer shut-down in those days.

   Eager to make a good first impression on my shift boss and co-workers, I remember really digging in to every task I was given with everything I had. If I had to shovel rocks back onto a conveyor belt I would go like crazy and work the entire shift to keep those rocks off the floor. My section was cleaned to perfection.

   One thing I noticed, however, was that the permanent employees seemed to have a lot of spare time on their hands than I did.   After working so hard during the first few days I went over to one of my co-workers and asked him what I was doing wrong. I explained to him that I seemed to be the only one on the shift who spent the entire eight hours working so furiously while most of my colleagues seemed to have plenty of time to sit around talking or strolling around the building.

   That person taught me one of the most important lessons I have ever learned in my life, and I am certain that he had never ever heard of the Pareto Principle. The next day he told me to follow him at the beginning of the shift. I went with him to the section of the conveyor belt that he was in charge of keeping clean. I watched him work for about an hour and then he put his shovel down and said, “There, I’m finished. Now I’ve got the rest of the shift to relax and just take care of major spills.”
   I stood there dumbfounded. “But look at the floor. There is still a lot of rock left to be put on the belt.”
   He looked at the rock that was left and then said, “The important thing here is to keep the conveyor belt from getting jammed up from the rock that is accumulating on the floor. I’ve cleared away the biggest piles from the trouble spots. Now I know that the conveyor belt will be good to go for the rest of the shift. I could spend a lot more time and energy cleaning up the rest of the rocks and sweeping the floor to make it perfectly clean, but it wouldn’t make any difference. All I have to do now is watch the conveyor belt to make sure that there are no accidents or major spills to jam it up.”

   It was at that moment that I knew what the Pareto Principle was and I have been using it ever since. It is a way of thinking that can be applied to just about EVERYTHING in your life.

   Some people refer to the Pareto Principle as the 80/20 Rule. Quite simply, it means that if you look at most jobs or tasks that you have to perform, you can get 80% of the job done with 20% of the effort. It is the final 20% of the job that takes 80% of your time and effort. And in most cases, that final 20% doesn’t have any effect on the outcome. In fact, you can get along quite well without the final 20% and use the time more productively in other areas.

   When I began to apply this principle in my own life I found that I could get 80% of five (5) different jobs done in the time that it would normally have taken me to get 100% of one job done. And I discovered that in this world, you can get along very well with 80% of most things in life.

   As a classroom teacher I tried to get that message to my students. Many of my students were perfectionists who would spend far too much time trying to get 100% on everything they did. The trouble was that they might only have time to get one of five assignments done. They would get 100% on that one assignment, but get zero (0) on the other four, giving them an average of 20% and a failing mark. Other students who adopted the Pareto Principle were able to get 80% on all five assignments with the same amount of time and effort. They received an average of 80%. The most successful people in society today are the ones who can get five jobs done at an 80% satisfaction level.

   The next time you have a job to do, see what happens when you use the Pareto Principle. You too will discover that in most cases, the final 20% is not worth the effort and won’t make any difference in the outcome. Your life will become much less stressful and you will find that you have a whole lot more time for the things you really enjoy.
   Have a good week!


Keep Your Fork, The Best Is Yet To Come!

Editorial by Robert Kirwan

November 13, 2007

   Each week as I travel around the city meeting different people from all walks of life I am amazed at how difficult life has become for most of us.  The good news for all of my younger readers is that over the years I’ve discovered that no matter how bad the situation may seem, things do eventually get better. It’s all a matter of having faith and the courage to keep going despite the odds against you.

   One of the other fascinating things I’ve discovered is that no matter how good things may have seemed in the past, or how much I may have enjoyed a certain time in my life, each new stage I enter as I grow older seems to be better than any of the ones that I’ve gone through before. I can’t explain it, but life just seems to get more and more satisfying as you grow older. It may be that once you realize you don’t have many years left you tend to appreciate things more.

   This week I want to share a story with you that I take out every now and then when things start to get me down.  The story itself is kind of sad because it is about a lady who is about to die, but the message may help you get through some troubling times in your own life. We just have to remember that “The Best Is Yet To Come”.  The story is called, ‘The Fork’.
   “A woman had been diagnosed with a terminal illness, and had been given three months to live. As she was getting her things in order, she contacted her pastor and had him come to visit. He went to her house to discuss certain aspects of her final wishes. She told him which songs she wanted at the service, what scriptures she would like to be read, and what outfit she wanted to be buried in. The woman also requested to be buried with her favourite bible. Everything was in order, and the pastor was preparing to leave, when the woman suddenly remembered something important.

   “There’s just one more thing,” she said excitedly.

   “What’s that?” came the pastor’s reply.

   “This is very important,” she continued. “I want to be buried with a fork in my right hand.” The pastor looked at the woman, not knowing quite what to say as she asked. “That surprises you, doesn’t it?”

  “Well, to be honest, I am puzzled by the request,” said the pastor.

   The woman explained, “In all of my years of attending church socials and potluck dinners, I remember that when the dishes and the main course were being cleared, someone would usually lean over and say, ‘keep your fork’. It was my favourite part, because I knew that something *better* was velvety chocolate cake or deep-dish apple pie. Something wonderful and with substance! So, I just want people to see me there in that casket with a fork in my hand, and I want them to wonder: ‘What’s with the fork?’ I want you to tell them: KEEP YOUR FORK. THE BEST IS YET TO COME.”

   The pastor’s eyes welled up with tears of joy as he hugged the woman good-bye. He knew this would be one of the last times he would see her before her death. But he also knew that the woman had a better grasp of Heaven than he did. She KNEW that something better was coming.

   At her funeral people were walking by the casket and they saw the pretty dress she was wearing, her favourite Bible and the fork placed in her right hand. Over and over, the pastor heard the question “What’s with the fork?” and he smiled.

   During his message, the pastor told the people about the conversation he had with the woman shortly before she died. He also told them about the fork and what it symbolized to her. The pastor told the people how he could not stop thinking about the fork and told them that they probably would not be able to stop thinking about it either. He was right.”
So, from now on, whenever you pick up a fork, no matter how good or bad your life has been up to now, remember the message from the wise lady in the story: “the best is yet to come”. Just keep on going and have faith. Never give up! The Best Is Yet To Come!
   Have a good week.


Who’s Driving Your Bus?

Editorial by Robert Kirwan

November 6, 2007



   I have often thought of my own life as a long journey with no real destination, just a lot of stops where I have been able to get out and enjoy the experience before getting back on with the trip.
   During the last few weeks I have been reading some of the works of
Phil Evans, a Motivator, Business Coach, Life Coach and Inspirational Writer based in Australia .
  According to Evans, “We should all think about our own lives as being a journey on a bus, surrounded by a great variety of people, all with particular positions on our bus that relate to where they fit into our lives. Some are right there next to us; some behind us; some in front of us... but all are important in playing some role in how we are "positioned" in their lives, and they in ours.”
   Now imagine yourself on your bus going along on the journey and suddenly you find that the bus is going along out of control as if being driven by some maniac who has gone mad. Instead of enjoying the trip, you find yourself in a terrifying nightmarish situation where you could crash at any moment and face disaster. If any of you have seen the movie, “Speed” with Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves, you know the kind of ride to which I refer.
  Evans pointed out that “many people are living-out that nightmare bus-ride right now. It is as if their life is out of control and they really don’t know what they can do about it.”
   Over the course of my own life I have come across many people, young and old, who felt as if they were on that out-of-control bus, riding along fearing that disaster could strike at any moment. If you find yourself in one of those situations, it is critical that you “move to the back seat of the bus for a while and become the observer of what is really going on,” explained Evans. “We need to observe who the most significant people are, and how they are positioned in our lives. Are they standing over us because they feel superior? Are they moving forward in their own lives and leaving us behind? Are they falling behind us because we've chosen to move forward?”
   If you feel your life’s journey is going out of control the most important thing for you to do is find the answer to one little question, “Who’s driving your bus?”
   “Is it someone from your past who has dominated you and what you do, even though they may not still be present in your life now? Are they taking you where you want to go? Do you feel like you would like the bus to stop and let you off?”
   If you are not happy with the person who is driving your bus, then there is only one thing for you to do, and on this point I agree wholeheartedly with Evans who gives the following advice. “From this rear seat of observation, you need to start to move closer to the driver's seat. It doesn't matter how long this takes, and it doesn't matter how much you are challenged by the people who may be trying to block your progress forward. You have to do this for yourself... starting right now!”
   The message is crystal clear! If you think of your life as a journey, and if you imagine yourself on an imaginary life-bus, then your ultimate goal is to be in the driver’s seat, in control of where you want to go and how you will get there.
   There is absolutely no question that you will come upon bumpy roads and detours along the way. Your bus may even break down once in a while and need some repairs. At every stop along the journey some new passengers may get off and others will get on, each playing some role in your life and affecting the rest of your journey.
   There will be times when you may have to ask people to get off the bus if they become a negative influence on the other “passengers” and ultimately on you. As long as you are the driver, you can determine who you will allow to come on board for the ride. If someone else is driving, you lose that control.
   As you are driving along there will be times when you won’t be too sure about what to do or what road to take. If that happens, just “stop the bus” and park for a while. Think about where you are now and think about where you want to end up. Then determine the best route and get on with your journey. Remember the important thing is that you arrive safe and sound at your next destination. It doesn’t matter how long it takes you as long as you enjoy the trip. And always remember that your next destination will not be your last. It is merely one more stop on the road of life.
   Have a good week!


A Bowl For Grandpa

Editorial by Robert Kirwan

October 30, 2007



   Perhaps one of the most important lessons I ever learned in life came shortly after my oldest son began Junior Kindergarten. Up until that time I had spent the previous six years enjoying the beginning of my career as an elementary school teacher. As a young teacher I worked diligently with my pupils and did what I could to help them develop skills in mathematics, english and the rest of the curriculum. My main focus was on the academic component of instruction, and while I am sure I conducted myself in a very professional manner, I never really paid much attention to the hidden lessons the children were being exposed to.

   During the year my son went through Junior Kindergarten, I listened intently as he described his days at school. Both my wife and I were amazed at what he was learning - not just academically, but about life itself. Nothing that his teacher did escaped his notice. The way she treated the children and the values she ‘demonstrated’ during the normal course of the day had a profound affect on my child. I am sure the teacher would have been astounded at some of the things my son was learning from her just by observation of the way she went about her daily activities. There was nothing wrong with what she did, but I’m certain that when viewed through the eyes of a four-year-old, the message received was not always the one she had intended.  It made me wonder just what kinds of messages all of the other students in her class were taking home. They were all making observations based upon their own particular set of values and point of view.
   I then tried to imagine the messages I had been sending out to my own students during those previous six years. What were they saying about my own behaviours and attitudes? What messages were they receiving from the way I was treating them and their peers.

   At that point in my career I was able to identify the most important principle about teaching. Most of what a child learns is “caught, not taught”. It matters not so much what we ‘say’ to our children, but what we ‘do’ in front of them that will remain with them as building blocks for their future. To demonstrate this concept, let me share with you a story entitled, “A Bowl For Grandpa”.

   A frail old man went to live with his son, daughter-in-law, and four-year-old grandson. The old man’s hands trembled, his eyesight was blurred, and his step faltered. The family ate together at the table.

   But the elderly grandfather’s shaky hands and failing sight made eating difficult. Peas rolled off his spoon onto the floor. When he grasped the glass, milk spilled on the tablecloth. The son and daughter-in-law became irritated with the mess.  

   “We must do something about Grandfather,” said the son. “I’ve had enough of his spilled milk, noisy eating, and food on the floor.”

    So the husband and wife set up a small table in the corner. There Grandfather ate alone while the rest of the family enjoyed dinner. Since Grandfather had broken a dish or two, his food was served in a wooden bowl. When the family glanced in Grandfather’s direction, sometimes he had a tear in his eye as he sat alone. Still, the only words the couple had for him were sharp admonitions when he dropped a fork or spilled food. The four-year-old watched it all in silence.

   One evening before supper, the father noticed his son playing with wood scraps on the floor. He asked the child sweetly, “What are you making?”

   Just as sweetly, the boy responded, “Oh, I am making a little bowl for you and Mama to eat your food in when I grow up.” The four-year-old smiled and went back to work.

   The words so struck the parents that they were speechless. Then tears started to stream down their cheeks. Though no word was spoken, both knew what must be done.

   That evening the husband took Grandfather’s hand and gently led him back to the family table. For the remainder of his days he ate every meal with the family. And for some reason, neither husband nor wife seemed to care any longer when a fork was dropped, milk spilled, or the tablecloth soiled.

   Children are remarkably perceptive. Their eyes observe, their ears listen, and their minds process every single message they absorb as they are trying to understand what life is all about. If they see us patiently provide a happy atmosphere for family members, they will imitate that attitude for the rest of their lives.

   The wise parent realizes that every day the building blocks are being laid for their child’s future. Let’s be wise builders.

   As you go about your business today, remember that you are laying the building blocks of your child’s future. Make sure the foundation is a strong one.

   Have a good week! 


Take A Long Look At Your Speedometer: Is It Worth The Time You Save?

Editorial by Robert Kirwan

October 23, 2007


   For as long as I can remember people have been talking about the need to improve highways in order to make them safer. The four-laning of Hwy 69 South and the McCrae Heights corridor both come to mind as places where the highway is usually blamed whenever there is a serious accident.
   In actual fact, there is no section of road that is unsafe if drivers would only exercise a level of caution appropriate for the conditions. I am sure we have all been guilty of having a heavy foot from time to time and I am sure we have all had our close calls. I came across the following story which should make all of us reflect about our driving habits as we head deeper into fall and winter when road conditions deteriorate because of weather. If you know anyone who tends to drive a bit too fast, please share this article with them.

   Jack took a long look at his speedometre before slowing down: 73 in a 50 zone. This was the fourth time in as many months that he was being pulled over for speeding and he couldn’t believe his bad luck.
   As the officer stepped out of his car, Jack saw that it was Bob, a person he knew very well from functions at their church.

   “Hi, Bob. Fancy meeting you like this,” said Jack as he jumped out of his car.

   “Hello, Jack,” said Bob with no smile on his face.

   “Guess you caught me red-handed in a rush to see my wife and kids,” added Jack while toeing a pebble on the pavement. “I’ve seen some long days at the office lately. I’m afraid I bent the rules a bit - just this once. Diane said something about roast beef and potatoes tonight. Know what I mean?”

   “Yeah, I know what you mean. I also know that you have a reputation in our precinct because of the number of tickets you receive,” explained Bob.

   Ouch! This was not going in the right direction thought Jack who decided it was time to change tactics. “What’d you clock me at?”

   “Seventy-one. Would sit back in your car please?” directed Bob.

   “Now wait a minute here, Bob. I checked as soon as I saw you. I was barely nudging 65,” the lie seemed to come easier with every ticket.

   “Please, Jack, in the car,” again directed Bob.

   Flustered, Jack hunched himself through the still-open door. Slamming it shut, he stared at the dashboard. He was in no rush to open the window. The minutes ticked by. Bob scribbled away on the pad. Jack wondered why Bob hadn’t asked for a driver’s license. Whatever the reason, it would be a month of Sundays before Jack ever talked to this cop at church again.

   A tap on the door jerked his head to the left. There was Bob, a folded paper in hand. Jack rolled down the window a bare 5 centimetres, just enough room for Bob to pass him the slip.

   Bob returned to his car without a word. Jack watched his retreat in the mirror. Jack unfolded the sheet of paper. How much was this one going to cost? Wait a minute. What was this? Some kind of joke? Certainly not a ticket. Jack began to read:

Dear Jack:

Once upon a time I had a daughter. She was six when killed by a car. You guessed it - a speeding driver. A fine and three months in jail and the man was free. Free to hug his daughters - all three of them. I only had one, and I’m going to have to wait until heaven before I can ever hug her again. A thousand times I’ve tried to forgive that man. A thousand times I thought I had. Maybe I did, but I need to do it again. Even now...Pray for me. And be careful. My son is all I have left.

Signed: Bob

   Jack twisted around in time to see Bob’s car pull away and head down the road. Jack watched until it disappeared. It took Jack a full 15 minutes to regain his composure and then he pulled away and drove slowly home. His wife and kids were surprised at the hugs they received when he arrived home that night.

   Life is precious. So starting now, let’s all slow down a bit and make our roads safer. Next time you are in a hurry, ask yourself if the time you save is worth a lifetime of lost hugs for some unsuspecting victim. Ask yourself what it might be like if you had to live the rest of your life knowing that you were responsible for taking away a lifetime of hugs from other people. Slow down. You’ll still get there.

   Have a good week!


“Whatever You Are Doing In Your Life Right Now Is Exactly What You Are Supposed To Be Doing”

Editorial by Robert Kirwan

October 16, 2007

  Anyone who has followed my editorials over the years is well aware of the fact that I am one of those persons who believes that there are no accidents in life; everything happens for a reason and no matter what your situation, good or bad, “you are exactly where you are supposed to be”!
   I am convinced that the secret to a happy, satisfying life is to learn to accept that everything happens for a reason, and that there is always some good that comes out of everything that happens to you that would not have happened if your life had turned out any differently. You may have to read that last sentence a couple of times, but I hope you understand what I mean.
   For example, this generation will never forget the tragedy that took place in
New York City on Sept. 11th, 2001 . The story I want to share with you today will demonstrate just how important it is to accept that everything happens for a reason, and in many cases, it is the little things that will have the greatest affect on the rest of your life.
   On that fateful day in
New York many companies which were located in the World Trade Centre lost most of the members of their staff when the planes hit the twin towers. One of those companies invited the remaining members of several other companies to share some available office space nearby until they could reorganize. During a meeting one morning, the people around the table shared their stories about why they were still alive. If you are not yet convinced just how important the little things in your life mean, consider the following:
   The head of one company was delayed that day because his son had just started kindergarten and he had to drive him to school before coming to work.
   Another fellow was alive because it was his turn to bring donuts and so he had stopped to pick up the treats for the office.
   One woman was late because her alarm clock didn’t go off at the usual time.
   One was late because of being stuck on the highway because of an auto accident.
   One of them missed his bus.
   One spilled food on her clothes and had to take time to change.
   One's car wouldn’t start.
   One went back inside the house to answer the phone.
   One had a child that was moving more slowly than usual that morning and didn't get ready as soon as he should have.
   One couldn't get a taxi.
   One man had put on a new pair of shoes that morning and developed a blister on his foot while walking to work. He stopped at a drugstore to buy a Band-Aid.
   In all of the cases above, those little annoyances that caused them to be late for work that morning prevented them from being in the
Twin Towers when it collapsed. Those little, unexplained things were what kept them alive while thousands of others died.
   So the next time you are stuck in traffic, miss your bus, turn back to answer a ringing telephone, have trouble finding your car keys, or get upset with your child for moving too slowly in the morning ... and any of the other little things that annoy you, just take a deep breath and remember; this is exactly where God wants you to be at that very moment. There is a reason for the delay and it is going to change the rest of your life – for the better.
   The next time your morning seems to be going wrong, don't get upset or frustrated. Just accept it and realize that this is exactly what is supposed to happen. Just go with the flow. The rest of the day will unfold as it should, all because of those little annoyances of the morning.
   Have a good week!


What Are We Doing In This Cage In The Middle of A Zoo

Editorial by Robert Kirwan

October 9, 2007

  As a member of the baby boomers I'm afraid I have to accept responsibility for a lot of what is wrong with this world today. However, like so many others my age, we sometimes look at the younger generation and wonder how they turned out so different from us in many respects.
   For example, I often come across people of my demographic group who have worked their entire life in jobs that they simply did not enjoy. They endured the work for the paycheck and for a comfortable pension because they felt they had a responsibility to provide for their family. It didn’t matter whether or not they liked their job; it was just something they were expected to do. Many of them are now retired and getting back into part-time work in fields that they love and wish they would have had the courage to get into when they were younger.
   On the other hand, I meet a lot of young adults who jump from program to program in university and college; switch jobs more often than I switch cars; and seem to be on a never-ending search for that elusive perfect life. I find myself shaking my head in amazement at their “courage” and wonder what will become of them.
   I experienced first-hand what the younger generation is going through when I retired from my career as a teacher. It was then that I decided to take the opportunity to get involved in the field of marketing and public relations. I found that I was “searching for meaning” at this stage of my life and I’ve experienced both the highs and lows that come from taking some wrong turns, some right turns and simply trying to find my “place in society” now that I have become part of the “mainstream” alongside the younger career-seekers.  

   A philosopher once said that if you chase two rabbits, both will escape. Well, I’ve chased a lot of rabbits during the last six years and a lot of them have escaped.
   Fortunately, I seem to have arrived at a place where I feel comfortable and confident. It is where I should be and where I belong. As usual, if I had just listened to my wife in the first place I would likely have ended up here much sooner with a lot fewer headaches, but such is the life of a Gemini. She always told me that I was a born “teacher” and that I should do something with my life that involved education, which is where my passion has always been.  

   Thus, I now find myself providing personal tutors and other education-related services to students, parents, teachers and businesses in the community and loving every minute of it.
   I think the difference between my generation and the younger generations of today is best illustrated in the following story about a conversation that takes place between a baby camel and his mother.
   One day a baby camel asked his mother, "Why do we have such large hoofs on our feet?"
   She turned to him. "God made us that way for a very special reason," and she began her explanation. "The big hoofs are to keep us from sinking into the sand."
   "Oh! So why do we have long eyelashes?"
   "It's to protect our eyes from the sand."
   "Why the big humps?"
   "That is to store fat and have enough energy to go long distances in the hot desert!"
   "I see!" The baby camel stretched his neck and looked up at his mother, "The big hoofs are to keep from sinking into the sand, the long eyelashes are to keep the sand out of our eyes, and the humps are to store energy to travel long distances...then what are we doing in this cage in the middle of a zoo?"
   I think the baby camel represents young people today. They too must be asking the same kind of questions. With so much potential and so many wonderful skills, coupled with the fact that the world is so full of opportunities…”what are we doing in this cage?”
   Bars come in all sizes and shapes. Some are physical; others are emotional or even mental. But none can withstand the force of determination that breaks them down. The effort is worth it and the results, simply amazing!
   And so, I tip my hat to the young people who are not going to remain “caged” when they have so much to experience in the world today. I also salute the “older” people who have decided to get out of situations in which they felt “caged and trapped”. 

Life is too short to remain in captivity. It may be a lot more challenging to live in the “wild” and it may be more dangerous, but it sure beats staying behind bars that prevent you from living your life to the fullest.
   Have a good week!


The Day I Decided To Stop Teaching Reading , Writing and Arithmetic

Editorial by Robert Kirwan

October 2, 2007

   As I was going through some of my files the other day I came across a wrinkled page on which was written a story that had changed my whole approach to teaching very early in my career. It brought back a whole lot of memories about former students of mine who I remember quite well to this day, not because of their superior academic accomplishments, but rather for their courage and perseverance once they realized that someone actually “believed in them”.

   I just have to share this story with you and ask that you pass it on to any parents and teachers you happen to know. It had a huge impact, not only on my personal philosophy of teaching, but also on how I treated my own children.  

   As Mrs. Thompson stood in front of her 5th grade class on the very first day of school, she told the children an untruth. Like most teachers, she looked at her students and said that she loved them all the same. However, that was impossible, because there in the front row, slumped in his seat, was a little boy named Teddy Stoddard.

   Mrs. Thompson had watched Teddy the year before and noticed that he did not play well with the other children, that his clothes were messy and that he constantly needed a bath. In addition, Teddy could be unpleasant.

   It got to the point where Mrs. Thompson would actually take  delight in marking his papers with a broad red pen, making bold X's and then putting a big "F" at the top of his papers.

   At the school where Mrs. Thompson taught, she was required to review each child's past records and she put Teddy's off until last. However, when she reviewed his file, she was in for a surprise. Teddy's first grade teacher wrote, "Teddy is a bright child with a ready laugh. He does his work neatly and has good manners... he is a joy to be around."

   His second grade teacher wrote, "Teddy is an excellent student, well liked by his classmates, but he is troubled because his mother has a terminal illness and life at home must be a struggle."

   His third grade teacher wrote, "His mother's death has been hard on him. He tries to do his best, but his father doesn't show much interest and his home life will soon affect him if some steps aren't taken."

   Teddy's fourth grade teacher wrote, "Teddy is withdrawn and doesn't show much interest in school. He doesn't have many friends and he sometimes sleeps in class."

   By now, Mrs. Thompson realized the problem and she was ashamed of herself. She felt even worse when her students brought her Christmas presents, wrapped in beautiful ribbons and bright paper, except for Teddy's.  His present was clumsily wrapped in the heavy, brown paper that he got from a grocery bag.

   Mrs. Thompson took pains to open it in the middle of the other presents. Some of the children started to laugh when she found a rhinestone bracelet with some of the stones missing, and a bottle that was one-quarter full of perfume.

   But she stifled the children's laughter when she exclaimed how pretty the bracelet was, putting it on, and dabbing some of the perfume on her wrist.

  Teddy Stoddard stayed after school that day just long enough to say, "Mrs. Thompson, today you smelled just like my Mom used to." After the children left, she cried for at least an hour.


   Mrs. Thompson paid particular attention to Teddy. As she worked with him, his mind seemed to come alive. The more she encouraged him, the faster he responded. By the end of the year, Teddy had become one of the smartest children in the class and, despite her lie that she would love all the children the same, Teddy became one of her "teacher's pets."

   Many years later they met again. By this time Teddy had gone on to medical school and had become a successful doctor.  They hugged each other for a long while, and Dr. Stoddard whispered in Mrs. Thompson's ear, "Thank you Mrs. Thompson for believing in me. Thank you so much for making me feel important and showing me that I could make a difference."

   Mrs. Thompson, with tears in her eyes, whispered back. She said, "Teddy, you have it all wrong. You were the one who taught me that I could make a difference. I didn't know how to teach until I met you."

   During my own 28 years as a classroom teacher I came across a lot of “Teddy Stoddards”. My only hope is that they remember me as someone who believed in them and showed them that they could make a difference.
   Have a good week!


“This Would Be Funny If It Wasn’t So Close To The Truth”

Editorial by Robert Kirwan

September 25, 2007

  Take a few minutes to reflect back upon your life and think about some of the achievements and accomplishments that gave you the most satisfaction. Chances are the times that come to mind are those when you were allowed the freedom to assume full responsibility for the results of your actions. Those are most likely the times when you were given a job to do and allowed the freedom to “do it your way”.

   I know in my own life I have always worked best when I was given a job to do, told the parameters within which I was to operate, and then permitted to make things happen in my own way. The times that have caused me the most stress and produced varying degrees of confrontation with my superiors were times when I was given the responsibility to do something and then “told how” to do it by the person in charge.

   In my many roles in life, as a father, a teacher, a business owner or a tutoring agent, I have always, always, always believed that if I was going to hold someone accountable for results I couldn’t supervise their methods. In other words, if I gave someone a task and told them that I was going to hold them responsible for the results, I had to at least allow them to do the job THEIR WAY, not mine. I may not have done the job in the same manner, but as long as they are not in any danger of hurting themselves or someone else, then I had to give them all of the help and support they needed and then demonstrate my confidence in their ability by GETTING OUT OF THE WAY and letting them do their job. Even if it meant that they failed, I would at least have demonstrated that I had faith and confidence in them to let them try it their way. If they failed, then they could try another way. Eventually they would get the job done and feel good about themselves. It may have taken longer, but they were better sons, students, employees or tutors for the experience.

   The problem we have in many areas of society today is that the LEADERS of business, government and even volunteer organizations spend far too much time finding fault and criticizing. It has reached such epidemic proportions that when I read the following story I couldn’t bring myself to laugh. Even though it is one of the funniest stories I ever read, it is SO CLOSE TO THE TRUTH that is just not funny.
   This is a story about two employees of a landscaping company and their supervisor, Sam. However, it could apply to many management / employee situations, including perhaps the one in which you currently find yourself.
   “Sam, a supervisor, was dumbfounded as he watched Bill diligently dig holes while Chuck, after waiting a short interval, filled them. When Sam demanded an explanation, Bill was indignant: "We’ve been doing this job for more than 10 years. What’s your problem?"
   "Are you telling me that for 10 years you’ve been digging and filling empty holes?" Sam replied.
   "Well, not exactly," Bill said. "Until a few months ago, another fellow put a bush in the hole before Chuck filled it. But he retired and was never replaced."
   "Why didn’t you tell somebody?" Sam sputtered.
   "My gosh," Bill answered. "You’re management. We figured you knew."

   THIS WOULD BE FUNNY IF IT WASN’T SO CLOSE TO THE TRUTH. Management styles today are often built upon control, especially when the positions of responsibility are filled with people who just don’t have what it takes to lead people. In many situations, when employees make mistakes, instead of using the occasion as a learning opportunity, managers often place blame upon the employees and make them feel inadequate or fearful of losing their job in order to demonstrate who is in power. Offering suggestions to a manager like this is useless since they feel that by accepting advice from employees they are demonstrating weakness as a leader.

    After a few years of this kind of treatment employees learn to adopt the attitude that in order to protect themselves from criticism, they will ONLY DO WHAT THEY ARE TOLD.  Hence, you get people like Bill and Chuck who simply continue doing what they’ve always done, even if it doesn’t make sense. After all, they can’t be blamed for anything as long as they are doing what they were told to do. It’s not their fault if things go wrong while they are following orders from management.

   We all find ourselves in “management” roles of some kind during our life. Regardless of the situation, you should remember that if you give someone a job to do, don’t supervise their methods. Let them do the job THEIR WAY as long as they produce the desired results. Give them the support they need and be there if they ask for advice, but don’t interfere unless YOU are willing to accept responsibility for the results.

   Have a good week!  


The One Thing Everyone Needs In Life

Editorial by Robert Kirwan

September 18, 2007


   I learned a long time ago through my involvement with people in all walks of life…whether it was at work, at school, at home or in any other part of life, that there is absolutely one thing everyone and I mean everyone needs in this world. It doesn’t matter what age you are, or whether you are a man or woman, girl or boy, nor does it matter what your status is in society…the one thing we all need is to feel appreciated.   

   Mary Kay Ash once wrote, “Everyone has an invisible sign hanging around their neck saying MAKE ME FEEL IMPORTANT.”
   In my line of work I meet a lot of people who are in between jobs. Many were once in pretty decent occupations earning a substantial income and all indications were that they were successful at what they did. Most of those people identified one main reason for leaving their employment – a lack of appreciation and acknowledgement for their contributions to the company or organization.

   A quotation I read the other day by George Adams got me thinking about the various directions I have taken in my own life and career. Adams stated, “There are high spots in all of our lives and most of them have come about through encouragement from someone else.”

   Adams was absolutely correct. As I thought back on some of the times in my life I considered to be “high points” I could clearly recall that is was encouragement provided by others that gave me the confidence to move ahead with my dreams. It seems as if there was always someone there to give me the strength and courage I needed at just the right time. I wondered what might have become of me if I hadn’t received that little bit of encouragement. What if I was left on my own to muster up the courage? Would I have been able to accomplish all that I have done in my life?
  Dale Carnegie, the person who became famous for his inspirational books and programs has empowered people all over the world. He once said, “Perhaps tomorrow you will forget the kind words you say today, but the recipient may cherish them over a lifetime.”  When I read Carnegie’s comment I decided to reflect upon my activities during the previous few days. Where there moments during those days when I may have said something that could possibly have had a life-changing effect on another person with whom I had come in contact?
   I recalled that the previous morning I had a meeting with a recent graduate of Teachers’ College to interview her for a position with my tutoring agency.  We had never met before, yet when our eyes met in the crowded room at Tim Horton’s I knew right away who she was. As we sat down to talk I explained to her that out of all of the people in the room, she was the one who stood out because she “looked like a teacher”. I said that as a very positive comment about the “presence” she portrayed and the way she carried herself. She thanked me and then we went on with our meeting. But I could tell that my comment meant a lot to her.

   And then there was the young lady a few days earlier who stopped by my office to register as a tutor. After talking with her for a while I encouraged her to develop a seminar presentation that we could offer to schools in the area as part of a full-day workshop. She was absolutely thrilled with the prospect of getting involved in a project about which she was so passionate. I felt good about being able to provide her with the motivation to proceed with this venture, and then as she was leaving she turned to me and said four words that have echoed in my head ever since. She simply said, with a sincere smile of appreciation, “You are so inspiring!”

   Two seemingly uneventful moments in my life: and yet in those moments one lady who has thus far been unsuccessful in her search for a chance to begin her career in teaching may have received the strength and inspiration to carry on pursuing her dream of one day being in front of a class: just because I told her that she “looked like a teacher” and that she has obviously made the right career choice. I wonder if the other young lady will be inspired by my encouragement to fuel her passion for teaching natural science and perhaps spread her knowledge and enthusiasm among many other young students as a result of our meeting.

   All I know for certain is that I will never forget the tremendous feeling of appreciation I felt when I heard those four words directed at me.
   It clearly made me aware of the enormous responsibility we all possess. Each and every one of us has the power to change a life with a single comment: the chance to encourage and show appreciation to all other human beings with whom we come into contact.
   I leave you this week with a short passage from John Wesley: “Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.”
   Have a good week.


Living A Life That Matters Is All About Being Nice

Editorial by Robert Kirwan

September 11, 2007

    I get to meet a lot of university students who are studying to become teachers. I also have contact with a number of university and college graduates who are desperately searching for a chance to begin a meaningful career. Some of the people I speak to are actually at the beginning of their teaching career.
   One of the things that become clearly evident as I get to know these people is that each of them sincerely wants to make a difference in the lives of others. They want to “matter” to others and to do wonderful things with their life. I love being around such youthful exuberance. Young people have beautiful dreams and are not afraid of anything. Life is like a huge Christmas gift that they can open each and every day.
   I also get to talk to a lot of “older” people from my own generation. Many people who were born as part of the “baby boom” generation are also desperately searching for meaning in their life. Indeed, many of us look back on our life and wonder what it all meant. What have we done to make a difference? What have we done that “matters” in the whole scheme of things?
   Those questions were on my mind the other day when I read a short passage about a lady named Marta, who was also searching for something. She found it while traveling on a bus. Here is her story.
   Marta was a hard-working single mother. When her minister sermonized about "living a life that matters," she worried that working to raise her kids and going to church wasn’t enough. So while on the bus to work one day she made a list of other jobs she could do and volunteer work she could try.
   Sylvia, an elderly woman who was on the bus that morning, saw the worry on Marta’s face and asked what was wrong. Marta explained her problem. Sylvia said, "Oh my, did your minister actually say you weren’t doing enough?"
   "No," Marta said. "But I don’t know how to live ‘a life that matters’ I want to make a difference in the life of others."
   "You don’t have to change jobs or do more volunteer work," Sylvia consoled her. "It’s enough that you’re a good mother. But if you want to do more, think about what you can do while you are doing what you already do. It’s not about WHAT you do, but HOW you do it."
   "You don’t understand," Marta said. "I sell hamburgers. How do I make that significant?"
   "How many people do you deal with every day?" Sylvia asked.
   "Two to three hundred."
   "Well, what if you set out to cheer, encourage, teach, or inspire as many of those people as you could? A compliment, a bit of advice, a cheerful hello, or a warm smile can start a chain reaction that lights up lives like an endless string of Christmas bulbs."
   "But that’s just being nice," Marta protested.
   "Right," said Sylvia. "Niceness can change lives.”
   Marta looked at the old woman. "What do you do?"
   "I was a housekeeper until I retired," Sylvia said. "Now I just ride the bus talking to people."
   Let me repeat a section from this story: “If you want to do more, think about what you can do while you are doing what you already do.” What a profound philosophy. If you want a slogan to live by this is it. “THINK ABOUT WHAT YOU CAN DO WHILE YOU ARE DOING WHAT YOU ALREADY DO”. This is a rule that EVERYBODY can live by, regardless of what they are doing with their life.
   In today’s story Sylvia spends her day riding the bus talking to people just like Marta. All Sylvia is doing is being nice, but as she said, “Niceness can change lives.”
   And so, no matter where you are in your life right now, you CAN make a huge difference and you CAN live a life that matters, simply by “thinking about what you can do while you are doing what you already do.” Just by being nice to other people, you can change their whole approach and outlook on life: just by being nice.
   Don’t forget, “It’s not about what you do, but how you do it." that will make you stand out from others and will allow you the satisfaction of knowing that you did indeed live a life that matters.
   Have a good week!


Make the Most Of Your True Talents And Keep Your Dreams Alive

Editorial by Robert Kirwan

September 4,, 2007


  We all want to be good at what we do. Whether we are engaged in sporting activities, work related tasks or recreational hobbies, we all have this intense desire to do well.   

   Unfortunately, we soon come to realize that it is a cruel fact of life that there is no way we can be good at everything. Some people are natural athletes - others couldn’t catch a ball if their life depended on it. Some children are gifted students and come home with straight A’s every year. Others struggle just to get passing marks.

   Today, Wednesday, September 5, 2007 , is the first day of class for elementary and secondary school children in the area. As such, I think the following story about Sparky is appropriate and should be shared with your children.

   “Sparky didn’t have much going for him. He failed every subject in the 8th grade and in high school he flunked Latin, algebra, english and physics. He made the golf team, but promptly lost the only important match of the season, then lost the consolation match. He was awkward socially - more shy than disliked. He never once asked a girl to go out on a date in high school.

   One thing, however, was important to Sparky - drawing! He was proud of his artwork even though no one else appreciated it. He submitted cartoons to the editors of his high school yearbook, but they were turned down. Even so, Sparky aspired to be an artist. After high school, he sent samples of his artwork to the Walt Disney Studios. Again, he was turned down.

   Still, Sparky didn’t quit packing his suitcase! He decided to write his own autobiography in cartoons. The character he created became famous worldwide - the subject not only of cartoon strips but countless books, television shows, and licensing opportunities. Sparky, you see, was Charles Shulz, creator of “Peanuts” comic strip. Like his character, Charlie Brown, Shulz may not have been able to do many things, but he made the most of what he could do.”

   And so, as we embark on yet another school year, we are reminded that our job as parents and teachers is to provide children with experiences and opportunities that will develop their natural talents and skills to the fullest. We must help them find what they do best, and once that discovery is made, we must facilitate the development of those particular skills. While it is always a admirable to help children strengthen their weaknesses, we should never forget that it is impossible for a child to grow up to become an adult who is “good” at everything.

   The good athlete should be encouraged to train and develop his/her athletic skills and to explore careers that will utilize those skills. The person who has a passion for reading should be given every opportunity to read and fuel that passion. The talented artist should be allowed the freedom to be creative and excel in that field.
   The biggest challenge facing the education system today stems from the fact that we are constantly facing pressure to have a child achieve “straight A’s” in every subject on the report card. A child who achieves A’s in Reading and Writing and C’s in Mathematics causes great concern for his parents and teachers. He is often given extra help and homework to bring up his math mark and although he may improve his mark in math to B, he may have had to take time away from Reading and Writing, seeing those marks drop down to a B.

   Our goal as a teachers and parents should be to encourage the student to excel even more in Reading and Writing, aiming for an A+ in those areas. Research has shown that as one improves his/her areas of strength, the areas of weakness will also grow. By pushing for an A+ in Reading and Writing, there is every likelihood that you will also bring the Math mark up to a B naturally without having to do much extra work. The improved “learning skills” developed in reading and writing will be transferred to other subjects.
   So, if you are one of the few who are good at everything you do, thank your lucky stars every morning. If, however, you are like most of us, follow the example of Charles Shulz and make the most of what you can do. Find your passion and add fuel to it for the rest of your life. Everything else will follow.
    Have a good week!


A Message To All Teachers: Don’t Forget To Sharpen Your Ax.”

Editorial by Robert Kirwan

August 28, 2007

   On Tuesday, September 4, 2007 , teachers, principals and support staff will gather in their schools and classrooms for a Professional Activity Day in order to prepare for the 2007-2008 school year.
   The following morning, Wednesday, September 5, 2007 those same educators will greet almost 25,000 local students from as young as three years of age as these eager minds welcome the opportunity to continue in their quest to fill their minds with all sorts of important knowledge about life.
   I can honestly say that during my entire 28 year career as a teacher, this time of year was always accompanied by tremendous anxiety on my part, especially as I got older and realized just how much impact I was having on these impressionable young people. The thing that frightened me most was that I never quite knew how my words and actions were going to be “received” by these boys and girls who were being placed in my care by parents who trusted my judgement and hoped that I knew what I was doing to shape the minds of their offspring. I knew the message I wanted to get out, but I could never be sure of the message they were taking in.
   In the early years of my career that didn’t bother me as much. I was passionate about my job. I loved working with children. I loved everything about the career. I just went forward with all of the confidence in the world that I would make a positive difference in the lives of my students and I would open up their minds to new and wonderful learning opportunities.
   I think I was a lot like the woodcutter in the following story. It has a special message for all teachers and parents at this time of year.
   Once upon a time a very strong woodcutter asked for a job with a lumber company, and he got it. The pay was really good and so were the work conditions. For that reason, the woodcutter was determined to do his best. His boss gave him an ax and showed him the area where he was supposed to work. The first day, the woodcutter brought 18 trees

   "Congratulations," the boss said. "Continue what you were doing!"  Very motivated by the boss’ words, the woodcutter tried harder the next day, but he only could bring 15 trees. 
   The third day he tried even harder, but he only could bring 10 trees. Day after day he was bringing less and less trees.  "I must be losing my strength", the woodcutter thought. 
   He went to the boss and apologized, saying that he could not understand what was going on. "When was the last time you sharpened your ax?" the boss asked.
    "Sharpen? I had no time to sharpen my ax. I have been too busy trying to cut trees."
   Thankfully I came across that story early in my career as a teacher. It hit me right between the eyes and had a profound impact on my philosophy of teaching from that day on.
   The story warned me about getting so caught up in my enthusiasm for teaching my subject matter and following the curriculum guidelines that I forget to sharpen my own ax by taking the time to really get to know my students and their parents. Yes, I was a university graduate with two degrees. I did well in school. I had high marks. I had an excellent attitude towards learning. My family was very supportive and encouraged learning in every way.
   The day after I first read that story I looked out at the faces of the boys and girls in my classroom and realized that the majority of them would never even set foot on the property of a university campus let alone successfully graduate with a university degree. For many of my students, education had become boring and something they were "forced to do". They did not share my enthusiasm and were not “receiving” the messages I was sending. My ax was dull. It needed sharpening.
   So if you find as I did that the harder you work as a teacher, the less you seem to be getting through to your children, ask yourself if perhaps it is time to "sharpen your ax" and take a day or two to get to know your children a little better. Find out who they are and what is important to each of them in their life right now. Discover the hidden barriers that are preventing you from "getting through to them". Get down to their level and see the world through their eyes. I found that once I got to know my students, their parents and their neighbourhood, I was in a much better position to help them develop personal learning skills that would serve them well no matter which road life’s journey was destined to take them.
   I wish all teachers the very best of luck this year. You will make a very significant difference in the life of each of your students. Get to know them well. Sharpen your ax.
   Have a good week!


“Welcome To Holland ! You’ll Be Here For A Long Time So Enjoy Your Stay.”

Editorial by Robert Kirwan

August 21, 2007


Have you ever experienced disappointment in your life? Have you ever had any of your personal, family or career dreams go up in smoke?

   I suppose it’s only human nature to complain about how rough life is. After all, we never have enough money, or time, or opportunity to do everything we want. And so many of us recall times when we had to suddenly cancel a trip or dinner engagement because of some unforeseen happening.
   I meet a lot of people from all walks of life because of my involvement in education. Many of them tell me of how they had big plans in their life for wonderful careers, huge homes and plenty of fame and recognition. Those plans changed because of some major event that forced them to take on a whole new direction.

   I want to share a story with you today which shows us that if we spend too much time mourning our losses, or wishing we were somewhere else, we will miss out on so many of the special things that exist in our own life, even if it is not quite the life we had planned and dreamed about.

   This is an adaptation of a story is entitled, “Welcome To Holland ”. It was written by Emily Perl Kingsley, who was describing what it was like when she gave birth to a daughter with Down Syndrome. The message will touch the heart of everyone who remembers dreaming of a life that is much different from the one in which they are living.
   When you’re going to have a baby, it’s like planning a fabulous vacation trip to
Italy . You buy a bunch of guide books and make your wonderful plans. The Coliseum; the Michelangelo; David; the gondolas in Venice ; and more. You may even learn some handy phrases in Italian. It’s all very exciting as you plan for this wonderful trip that will change your life forever.

   After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, “Welcome to Holland .”

   Holland ?!?” you say. “What do you mean Holland ? I signed up for Italy ! I’m supposed to be in Italy . All my life I’ve dreamed of going to Italy .”

   But there’s been a change in the flight plan. They’ve landed in Holland and there you must stay.

   The important thing is that they haven’t taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease. It’s just a different place. It’s just not where you had expected to land.

   So you must go out and buy new guide books. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met.

   It’s just a different place. It’s slower-paced than Italy and less flashy than Italy . But after you’ve been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around...and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills...and Holland has tulips. Holland even has Rembrandts.

   But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy ...and they’re all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life, you will say, “Yes, that’s where I was supposed to go. That’s what I had planned.”

   And the pain of that will never, ever, ever, ever go away...because the loss of that dream is a very, very significant loss.

   But...if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn’t get to Italy , you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things...about Holland .

   Emily dreamed all her life about becoming a mother with a normal child and doing all of the things that mothers do with their daughter. But that’s not what happened and she learned to accept this change and enjoy everything about her new arrival. She was still a mother and this was still her daughter, only it was different.
   This story is not just about people who have children with a disability. It is for anyone who has experienced real pain in life. It is for anyone who has lost a loved one; experienced a divorce; been in an accident; is suffering from a life-threatening disease; had to move away from home; or any number of other major life-altering events. It is about making new plans and reading new guide books. It is about letting everyone else talk about their trip to
Italy while you are taking time to enjoy the windmills and tulips of Holland .

   For no matter how much pain you feel, or how bad your situation may seem to you at times, there are always beautiful, special windmills and tulips in your world. All you have to do is stop mourning and accept that this is the way it will be.

   Welcome to Holland ! You’ll be here for a long time so enjoy your stay.

   Have a good week!


You Cannot Discover New Land Unless You Have The Courage To Lose Sight of The Shore

Editorial by Robert Kirwan

August 14, 2007

   One of my favourite authors is Tom Peters. He wrote the following observation, “I’ve spent a good part of my life studying economic successes and failures…above all, I’ve learned that everything takes a back seat to innovation.”
   Unfortunately, most of our busy lives are so focused on solving day-to-day problems that we seldom have any time to even consider opportunities which may lay right on our doorstep. Sadly, many of the people currently occupying leadership roles in business and government spend so much of their time trying to maintain control that they actually discourage employees and colleagues from “thinking outside the box”. It doesn’t take long for young, ambitious persons starting out in a new career to learn that if they want to keep their job, they better do what they are told and put a lid on things such as innovation, risk-taking and creativity.
   I came across a great story recently called, Paper Airplane. It was written by a man named Michael McMillan. The story is about a Grade six teacher who spent an entire week teaching her class about aerodynamics. To finish off the unit she organized a paper airplane contest. Each student was given a sheet of construction paper and 15 minutes to build the “winning” plane that would fly the furthest and win a prize.
   The students went to work immediately, carefully folding their paper, hoping to create the perfect plane that would travel farther than all of the others. Before long, everyone was ready to go outside to start the contest. Everyone that is, except for Jeff. He was a unique child and was known for traveling to a “different drummer” if you know what I mean. He usually had his own view of life that was not always the same as the others in the class. Jeff hadn’t made even one fold in his paper. He just sat there staring out the window – thinking.
   To give him more time, the teacher told Jeff he could go last. As the contest went on there were some very interesting results. Some of the planes barely flew two meters while others did surprisingly well. As the students in the class each stepped forward to test their creations, Jeff stood there at the back of the line, still holding on to that piece of construction paper.
   Before long, Jeff was the only remaining contestant. With great anticipation, the class watched as Jeff approached with his “craft” well hidden behind his back. Then he stepped to the line and exposed his masterpiece…a flat sheet of paper. But just as the class began to snicker, Jeff confidently wadded up the piece of paper into a tight ball, and then drew his hand back and threw it higher and farther than the leading plane had landed.
   The rest of the class stood there in amazement. The silence was broken when the teacher began to clap her hands and stepped forward to present Jeff with the first-place prize. The rest of the students then joined in applause and cheered the champion.
   Jeff demonstrated a new way of interpreting a problem. More importantly, he had the courage to act on his vision. 

   I’ve met a lot of people in my life like Jeff. Most of them, however, have grown tired of trying to “fight the system” and eventually settled down into a relatively secure life of compliance and conformity. They learned early that “rocking the boat” and “making waves” makes most other people uncomfortable. Your life is a lot less stressful if you just “go with the flow” and do what you are told.
   Others have gone on to “think outside the box” and have become very successful through innovations that other people soon came to like once they got over their initial “fears”.
   T.S. Elliot once said, “Only those who are willing to go too far can possibly find out how far they can go.”
   The next time you come up with an idea that seems “outside the box”, have the courage to act on your vision. If you fail, you fail. At least then you will know how far you can go or at the very least, what you must do to go further the next time. T.S. Elliot’s message is true. If you never fail, you never really know just how far or how successful you could become. You have to fail in order to know when you’ve gone too far.
   Remember, in order for Christopher Columbus to discover
America , he had to have the courage to lose sight of the shore.

   Have a good week!


Look To Your Weaknesses To Discover Your Strengths

Editorial by Robert Kirwan

July 24, 2007

     Summer time provides and excellent opportunity for each of us to slow down and truly take stock of our life. We can look back to see what we’ve accomplished along the way and look forward to determine where we would like to be a year from now.  Sometimes, however, it is wise to ask others for their opinion as well simply because we often tend to be very hard on our selves and may not even realize that we have had a positive impact on others.  What we may see as a weakness may actually be one of our strengths. Take a look at the following story and you will see what I mean.
   A long time ago a water bearer in India owned two large pots. Each pot hung on one of the ends of a pole which he carried across his neck. One of the pots had a crack in it, and while the other pot was perfect and always delivered a full portion of water at the end of the long walk from the stream to the master’s house, the cracked pot arrived only half full.
   For a full two years this went on daily, with the bearer delivering only one and a half pots of water in his master’s house. Of course, the perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments. But the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection, and miserable that it was able to accomplish only half of what it had been made to do. After two years of what it perceived to be a bitter failure, it spoke to the water bearer one day by the stream.

  “I am ashamed of myself, and I want to apologize to you.”

  “Why?” asked the bearer. “What are you ashamed of?”  

   “I have been able, for these past two years, to deliver only half my load because this crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way back to your master’s house. Because of my flaws, you have to do all of this work, and you don’t get full value from your efforts,” the pot said sadly.

   The water bearer felt sorry for the old cracked pot, and in his compassion he said, “As we return to the master’s house, I want you to notice the beautiful flowers along the path.”

   Indeed, as they went up the hill, the old cracked pot took notice of the sun warming the beautiful wild flowers on the side of the path, and this cheered it some. But at the end of the trail, it still felt bad because it had leaked out half of its load, and so again the pot apologized to the bearer for its failure.

   The bearer said to the pot, “Did you notice that there were flowers on only your side of the path, but not on the other pot’s side? That’s because I have always known about your flaw, and I took advantage of it. I planted flower seeds on your side of the path, and every day while we walk back from the stream, you’ve watered them. For two years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate my master’s table. Without you being just the way you are, he would not have this beauty to grace his house.
   The message from this story is that each of us have our own unique flaws. In a way, we are all cracked pots. However, what we see as imperfections in ourselves may not be considered as such by the people who are closest to us. In fact, as I stated earlier, what we think of as failures on our part may actually be our strengths as far as others are concerned.
   So as you spend time in a reflective mood this summer, don’t be too quick to pass judgement on yourself. If you acknowledge your flaws and your shortcomings, you may discover that they are the cause of a lot of beauty and happiness that you never even realized. Look to your weaknesses and you too may discover your strengths, just like the cracked pot.
   Have a good week! 


“I Want To Do It Myself”

Editorial by Robert Kirwan

July 3, 2007

      One day, many years ago, I came upon a cocoon on an old log in my yard. The cocoon was moving and I could see that a butterfly was trying to break out of the cocoon to begin its short, but wonderful life flying among the flowers.
   I went up to the cocoon and gently pulled apart the opening to help the butterfly emerge. It appeared grateful for the favour as it burst out of the cocoon and onto the log where it stretched its wings in the sun. And then the saddest thing happened.
   Try as it might, this beautiful butterfly was unable to fly. It was unable to flap its wings and stumbled in its attempts to become airborne. Eventually it gave up and died.
   I then realized that my well-intentioned assistance in helping the butterfly get out of the cocoon actually caused the death of this beautiful insect. Nature, you see, created a cocoon that would be difficult to get out of precisely so that the wings of the butterfly would be strengthened through the struggle. By the time the butterfly battled its way out of the cocoon, the wings would be strong enough to allow the butterfly to fly. By pulling the cocoon apart, the butterfly was allowed to escape its prison, but once outside it didn’t have the strength to fly. Had I simply stood back and watched the butterfly struggle with the cocoon, the insect would have gone through the natural process of “growing up” and would have been strong enough to survive on its own. I was simply in too much of a hurry and did not allow the butterfly the time it needed to evolve.
   Memories of that afternoon watching a beautiful butterfly die because of my “help” came vividly to mind a couple of weeks ago during a trip to I made to Toronto with my granddaughter who just turned three years old. The two of us were on our way to visit her parents, her little sister, Hannah, and my wife (Grandma) who had been gone for over a week. We were all anxious to get together again and as I pulled out of Mamere and Papere’s driveway in
Chelmsford , Hailee and I were both excited about the trip and couldn’t wait to arrive at our destination.
   When we completed the “SEVEN” hour trip to
Toronto later that day the reunion was absolutely wonderful and I can sincerely say that I enjoyed every single minute of that long journey. I also realized that the butterfly emerging from a cocoon has a lot in common with a young child growing up. Just as it is with the butterfly, you must allow a child the opportunity to struggle and evolve, even if it means taking an extra couple of hours to get to Toronto .
   Hailee is at that “I want to do it myself” stage of life. And if you can just get over the “hurry-up syndrome” we acquire as adults, it is wonderful to witness. Who knew that the putting a straw into the hole in a juice box for the very first time could be such an earth-shattering event? Or being strong enough to actually open the fridge door for the first time? Or that putting on your own shoes – on the right feet no less – would be so satisfying?
   I will never forget the look on her face the day she was able to climb into my truck by herself. She finally stood up on my seat, holding onto the steering wheel and declared proudly, “I did it!” And when she could actually put her own seat belt on – what a moment!
   Have you ever watched a three-year old struggle to sip a McDonald’s milkshake through a straw? It is hard enough for an adult. And yet every time the icy solution touched her lips you could see the delight in her eyes. I learned that you can’t hurry a child through a milkshake.
   Yes, the trip to
Toronto took almost seven hours. Her 5th and final “pee break” came while we were caught in rush hour traffic on the 401. When I heard the dreaded “Grandpa, I have to go pee” for the third time in five minutes I knew I had no choice but to pull off on to the busy Allen Road. Soon we found a place where I could use my truck to shield her from public view and let her relieve herself in the grass under an overpass. I can’t wait for the right moment to remind her about what her grandpa had to do to make sure that she didn’t wet her pants. I think I will wait until her wedding day. It will be a good toast to the bride.
    We were both extremely happy to finally be reunited with the rest of our family. But as I pulled into the parking lot at the end of the journey I also felt a sense of sadness that the trip was coming to an end. It was a remarkable journey and definitely a highlight of my life. I just know that the next time I travel to
Toronto , the five hour trip will seem empty without her.
   Have a good week!


Life Is All About Making The Right Choices

Editorial by Robert Kirwan

June 26, 2007


  From the time you get up in the morning until the time you go back to bed in the evening, your day is nothing more than a series of choices. In fact each one of us makes hundreds of choices and decisions every single day. 
   Some of our choices produce good results and some of our choices don’t turn out so well. Sometimes the difference between making a good choice and a bad choice is simply a matter of luck.
   Most of the time however, making a good choice is a matter of having the proper information "before" you are in a position where you have to make that choice.
   That brings me to the topic of my editorial this week. It has been brought to my attention that some young people in our community have been making some very “bad choices” lately and as a result I am asking all of my readers to do me a huge favour. I would like you to deliver a message to all of the teenagers you know and also to any young adults you come in contact with during the summer so that they have this information “before” they are in a position to make a decision that may haunt them for the rest of their life.
   The information is this: In Ontario it is illegal to consume alcohol before the age of 19. It is also illegal for anyone to supply alcohol to a person who is under the age of 19. That last sentence is important enough to repeat: It is illegal for anyone to supply alcohol to a person who is under the age of 19.
   I feel it is my duty to inform readers that an alarming number of underage boys and girls are being supplied with beer and liquor by irresponsible adults in this community. Some of those adults are being approached by teens outside beer and liquor stores and being asked to buy alcohol for them. While the act of asking is bad enough in itself, some of these irresponsible adults are actually complying with the request and purchasing alcohol for the underage teens. Both parties are in serious danger of ruining their lives if they are caught.

   Now that summer holidays are upon us, I think it is a good time for all parents of teenage boys and girls to have a serious heart-to-heart discussion about the consequences of being caught and charged with drinking underage. Moreover, I think it is equally important for adults, young and old, to understand the consequences of buying and/or supplying alcohol to minors.
   Under the Liquor License Act, anyone convicted of supplying alcohol to a minor faces a fine of up to $200,000 and up to one year in jail, depending on the seriousness of the results. In addition, if it can be proven that a serious accident occurred as a direct or indirect result of providing alcohol to a minor, the adult can also be sued in civil court for damages and lose “everything” including his or her house, car, savings, etc.
   Police will be doing their part to charge adults who supply alcohol to minors. In fact, there are “sting” operations organized during the summer months to do just that. For example, the next time you are approached to buy alcohol by an underage person outside a beer or liquor store, you better say no without hesitation. That person asking the question may just be working “under cover” to try to find people who are willing to make this “very bad decision”. There may also be someone in an unmarked car watching to see what happens.
   An additional piece of information you might want to relay to your adult friends is that the police do not have to catch you in the act. If anyone knows for a fact that you have supplied an underage person with alcohol, that person can inform the police and based on their testimony you can be charged with an offense under the Liquor License Act. You don’t have to be caught in the act. All you need is a witness who is willing to prevent this senseless act from ever occurring again.
   Remember, making a good choice is a matter of having the proper information “before” you are in a position where you have to make that choice. Now that you have the information, I hope any of you who might have felt compelled to supply an underage person with alcohol this summer will reconsider and avoid the risk of negative consequences which may last for the rest of your life. It’s just not worth it!
   Have a good week!


Raising The Standards Among Our Youth

Editorial by Robert Kirwan

June 19, 2007


I am sure most of you have noticed an increase in the number of disturbing stories and articles about young people both here at home and around the world who are involved in crime, vandalism and generally what we would consider downright disrespectful behaviour. While I am not sure if the actual crime rate among our younger generation is any worse than that of adults, it seems as if the media is quick to pounce upon examples of out-of-control youth as a way of attacking our education and police systems as well as our publicly funded social services agencies. These incidents also give an opportunity for politicians to feed the media frenzy by calling out for stronger enforcement and punishment measures to deal with youth crime or more funding for public education.

   As I prepared to write this column, for example, I read several feature articles about how our education system has been forced to lower its standards in order to reduce the failure and drop-out rates among our students. Teachers in classrooms today are required to make adjustments to their programs in order to provide adequate accommodation strategies for children who have been identified with learning disabilities, and it seems as if there are more and more identified students every year. In order to cover the curriculum many teachers are therefore forced to “teach to a lower level” than normal so that all of the children have a chance of understanding and keeping up. What results is a system where marks are inflated and children expect that they will get high grades with less actual work effort. On top of the lowering of the standards in the classroom, teachers coming into the system today are entering the profession at a time in the history of education where being a curriculum expert is nowhere near as important as being an effective classroom manager and disciplinarian. Unfortunately, classroom management and discipline falls into the same category as parenting in our society. For example, once you become a parent it is generally up to you to learn parenting on your own from experience. “Here’s your child. Good luck!”

   The same can be said about teaching. Once you graduate from Teachers’ College and are given a class of kids to look after, you are on your own when it comes to learning how to manage the group of children effectively in order to help them learn the concepts in the curriculum. You can always read books, attend workshops and talk to other teachers, but how you manage your classroom is pretty much left up to you. Some do an excellent job of managing a classroom of children and some have a terrible time keeping control.

   Without a doubt, students seem to have the upper hand today. They are not allowed to fail in most jurisdictions so teachers lose one of the primary motivational tools they had in the “old days” – FEAR! Fear of failure; fear of punishment; fear of authority; and most of all fear of how their parents would punish them at home for misbehaviour at school. And so, we conclude that it is becoming increasingly important for teachers to be true motivators and inspirations for their students. This is a profession that is under a great deal of stress today, and it doesn’t look as if things are going to change much in the next little while.

   While we can always look on the dark side, it is refreshing when we witness students who are “making a positive difference” in the community and who truly care about maintaining their own set of high standards. Confederation Secondary School’s Evolutionary Band comes to mind as a group of 25 or 30 young students who are simply “top of the class” in what they have done and what they have accomplished. Many other individual students have excelled and risen to the top level of achievement in their fields. You’ve read about some of them in The Vision Paper.
   As a community we have a collective responsibility to ensure that whenever a young person does something great, it is a cause for celebration and public recognition. It is something that we must hold up high as an example for others to follow.

   I have always believed that if you hold the bar up higher, students will jump over it. All you have to do is give them the right kind of motivation and give them credit when they accomplish their goals. We can raise the standards, but it will take a total community effort. Let’s work together in this.

   Have a good week!

We’re Raising Children, Not Flowers.

Editorial by Robert Kirwan

June 12, 2007



   Sunday June 17 is Fathers’ Day. This is the one day of the year when children usually go out of their way to buy a gift, make a phone call or do something special with their Father.
   For me, this day has always allowed me to spend time reflecting upon the tremendous responsibility I took on when I became a father. My children did not ask to come into this world. They did not select me as their father. They had no choice in the matter. They were forced to be my children and now their own children are forced into being my grandchildren.

   That is why I always consider Fathers’ Day as a special day in the year when I should be doing something special with my children; a day when I should be looking for ways to show my appreciation for what my children have meant to me over the years. It is also a day when I sometimes look back in time and realize that I wasn’t always as good a father as I should have been.  

   Unfortunately, fathers are not always completely sensitive to the needs of their children. Most of us would never do anything to deliberately hurt our children, but sometimes we just don’t realize how our actions or inactions are being perceived by our sons and daughters.

   For example, take the story of Howard, a man who thought he was in tune with the times. When his four-year old son David acquired a taste for “The Three Little Pigs” and demanded that his father read it to him night after night, Howard took action. He purchased a child’s easy-to-use tape recorder and read the story onto tape for him.

   The next time David asked for the story to be read, Howard switched on the recorder. David was fascinated at the novelty of his father’s voice reading his favorite book from a ‘machine’. The following night when he asked for “Free Li’l Pigs”, Howard went a step further. He showed David how to work the playback on the recorder for himself.

   The following evening, when David arrived and pushed the storybook at him, Howard said, “Now, David, you know how to turn on the recorder.” He smiled and said sweetly but insistently, “Yes.” Then he added, “But I can’t sit on its lap.” Needless to say the tape recorder was placed in storage after that.

   Take another story about a father who once had a job that required extensive travel. After a long trip, his wife and four children would meet him at the door with loving hugs and kisses. After one such joyful homecoming, he was playing with his youngest child and he asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up? The child responded without hesitation, “A pilot.”

   “Why a pilot?” the father asked a bit surprised.

   His son looked at him and replied, “So I can spend more time with you.”

   Shortly thereafter the father took on a position in his company that required far less travel.

   Every father’s day I always remember one afternoon when I was raking leaves in the back yard. My three sons were playing soccer on the grass and then decided to jump on the piles of leaves that I had worked so hard to rake up. Instead of scolding them for their actions, I simply watched them play, reminded about the story of the young father who was teaching his son how to push a lawn mower. The father turned away to talk to his wife and his son accidentally pushed the mower right through the flower bed. When the father began to yell at his child, his wife reminded him, “Remember, we’re raising children, not flowers.”

   We still have the picture of the boys playing in those leaves. It is hanging up in the house where I can see it every day to remind me that I am raising children, not flowers.

   In closing, there are two things that I wish I would have learned earlier in life, and each year I use this column to pass this message along to all of the young fathers out there. First, don’t ever feel that spending time with your children is less important than anything else you have to do in your life. Absolutely nothing is more important than spending time, even if it is just for a few moments with your children. Secondly, never pass up an opportunity to make your children realize that you are extremely proud to be their father.
   Have a good week!


If You Pick Moss, 

Don’t Expect Blueberry Pie

Editorial by Robert Kirwan

June 5, 2007

   I think I am one of the luckiest people in the world because of the time I am able to spend with young, vibrant people who are not afraid to demonstrate their excitement and zest for life. Personally, I would take a person with passion and enthusiasm over a person with skills and talent any day of the week. You can teach and develop skills, but you cannot develop a love of life and an optimistic attitude. These are character traits which become the very fabric of a person’s being and which emerge at all times during work or play. Furthermore they are traits that everyone is born with and you never lose them.

   As a classroom teacher, and now as an Independent Education and Career Planning Advisor, I come across far too many children and young adults who are on a road to despair unless someone can find a way to rekindle the fire inside and change their attitude towards learning and indeed life itself! In other words – bring back the zest for life we all see in children during the first years of their life. Bring that feeling that everyday is filled with wonderful experiences and opportunities.

   Unfortunately, society is turning out too many children and young adults who feel as if they are “entitled” to things without ever having to put much effort or thought into their work. They are just along for the ride and expect everyone around them to cater to their every wish and hand them life on a silver platter.
   Whenever I come across anyone – young or old – who wants to experience all of the good things in life, but are unwilling to do the work that comes first in order to be in a position to enjoy those things, I am reminded about the story of a lazy boy who went with his mother and grandmother on a blueberry picking hike into the woods.

   First of all, the boy made sure he selected the smallest basket he could find. Then, while the others worked hard at picking berries, he ran around the area, playing with the squirrels and chasing butterflies. When it was time to leave, he panicked and filled his basket mostly with moss and then topped it off with a thin layer of berries so that it looked full. His mother and grandmother commended him for his tremendous effort.

   The next morning his mother baked pies and she made a special saucer-sized pie just for her son. He could hardly wait for it to cool. Blueberry pie was his favourite! He could see the plump berries oozing through a slit in the crust, and his mouth watered in anticipation. However, as he sunk his fork into the flaky crust, he found mostly….moss!

   That day the boy learned a valuable lesson he would never forget. If you “pick blueberries” you can expect blueberry pie. But if you pick moss, you can only make moss pie.

    So remember, whether you are in school or at work, if you have enthusiasm and if you are willing to put in consistent effort along with passion, you will reap the rewards. If, on the other hand, you are lazy and prefer to take short-cuts, you should not expect to achieve the same results.

   And so as our young people approach the conclusion of another school year it is once again a time of reckoning. The marks on the report card will give you a pretty good indication of just how hard you worked this past year. If you did your best at all times and always approached new tasks with enthusiasm and excitement, then you should be satisfied with the results.

   However, if you slacked off most of the year; spent time going out and having fun instead of working harder on assignments and projects; chose to go to the movies instead of studying for those exams, you deserve low marks and hopefully you too will learn a valuable lesson about life.

   I would ask all parents to share this story with their children. Keep a copy some place handy in case you have to prove your point about the benefits of hard work. Keep reminding them that in this life, “If you pick moss, don’t expect blueberry pie!”

   Have a good week!


There Is Nothing Ordinary About An Ordinary Day

Editorial by Robert Kirwan

May 29, 2007


I think we have all heard the saying, "Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the number of moments that take our breath away."  This cliché is constantly being used by inspirational speakers and writers to convince us that we should appreciate the truly remarkable moments in our life and cherish them forever.
   Last weekend I came across an essay written by an unknown author that made me look at life from a whole different perspective. The writer contended that our lives are not really measured by the number of breaths we take or even by the number of moments that take our breath away, but rather our lives are measured by what happens during ordinary days. After all, we certainly have more plain ordinary days than we have special days or moments that take our breath away.  

   While we will always look forward to those beautiful milestones in our life, such as the birth of a child, a graduation, a wedding, a birthday or anniversary celebration, they are few and far between for most of us.

   In fact, we spend the vast majority of our time on this earth living normal, ordinary days which turn quickly into normal, ordinary years. We simply go about our business of being parents, spouses, employees and friends and life goes on.

   Therefore if we are going to accurately measure our life; it is what we do with these ordinary days that will actually define us. Your life is therefore defined by the sum of all of your ordinary days. We are who we are because of those typical days, not the moments that take our breath away or the number of years we have been alive.
   A few days after reading that essay my wife and I found ourselves looking after our two grandchildren on a Saturday night. We both enjoy the time we get to spend with our granddaughters during these “sleepovers” and our two little angels can’t wait to go to “Grandma and Grandpa’s”.
   It so happened that on this particular evening our eldest granddaughter who is almost three years old didn’t want to go to bed. Try as we might, she just wouldn’t cooperate. So rather than fighting (fellow grandparents will understand this unwillingness to fight with grandchildren), we just told her she could sit quietly on the rocking chair with her head on a pillow and watch television. The hockey game was on so I am sure it was absolutely boring for her, but she didn’t mind because at least she didn’t have to go to bed.
   While she was sitting there, I reached my foot over and began gently rocking the chair in the hope that she would fall asleep and we could carry her to bed.

   It was at that moment when I flashed back in time and vividly recalled standing in the hallway at the hospital, looking into the room at my daughter-in-law moments after she had delivered her first-born baby. My daughter-in-law will tell you that she never looked so awful and exhausted, with her hair a complete mess, but when I saw her holding my first granddaughter, the two of them were the most beautiful sight I could ever imagine. I told her that there is nothing in this world more beautiful than a new mother holding her child.

   Now, almost three years later, I looked over at this wonderful little girl, curled up in the rocking chair, eyes slowly closing while Grandpa was gently rocking her with his outstretched toes. I thought about my one year old granddaughter already asleep in her crib in another room. It was then that the significance of the essay hit me. This was just an ordinary day in my life. It was almost 10 p.m. and our granddaughter was giving us a hard time about going to bed. But at that very moment, as I gazed upon her innocent face with her eyes closed I felt the same as I had at the moment of her birth, looking at her in the arms of her mother. As ordinary as the day may have seemed, I couldn’t have imagined myself being happier or more at peace than I was right then and there. I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else.

   I am truly convinced that the ordinary days of our lives are the ones that are the most precious. And the older I get the more I realize that there is nothing ordinary about an ordinary day. And that is the way life is supposed to be.
   Have a good week!

It’s Time For All Graduates To Notice The River

Editorial by Robert Kirwan

May 22, 2007


During the months of May and June many of the parents, grandparents and family members reading this article will be attending graduation ceremonies at elementary, secondary and post-secondary institutions throughout the region. 

   As a professional educator in the classroom for 28 years, and now with my own tutoring company, I often find myself wondering if our education system has adequately prepared our children for the challenges of life that lay ahead of our graduates once they enter the real world beyond school. At times, I have felt a lot like the Master in the story told by Anthony de Mello.

   “As the Master grew old and infirm, the disciples begged him not to die. The Master said, “If I did not go, how would you ever see?”

  “What is it we fail to see when you are with us?” they asked.

    But the Master would not say.

   When the moment of his death was near, they said, “What is it we will see when you are gone?”

   With a twinkle in his eye, the Master said, “All I did was sit on the riverbank handing out river water. After I’m gone, I trust you will notice the river.”

    Every time I read that story I get a chill running up and down my spine; for it is true that the best teachers in the world are those who sit on the “riverbank handing out river water”.

    I am convinced that knowledge is caught, not taught, thus our role as educators and parents is to provide leadership and to facilitate experiences which will enable our children to “notice the river” after they leave us. We hand out the “river water of knowledge and learning experiences” in the hopes that our students will be able to see the whole river when we are no longer part of their lives.

   My message this week is for all graduates who are finished with their formal education.  It is time to ‘notice the river’.

   If the years you have been in school were beneficial, you will indeed notice the river that has grown in size through the experiences you have encountered in life. As you go forth to meet new challenges, you may never fully realize the value of those experiences, but your attitude and determination to succeed will surely have grown from the water which was handed out to you in the past by all of your teachers. While you were a student, you could not possibly have seen the river, focussing only on the bits of water you were given at the time. But now as you walk off that stage with your diploma in hand, you can gaze across the world of opportunity in front of you and clearly see the river flowing. You can see that each time you were handed a cup of water, your personal river grew larger and more splendid.

   As you go forward into your new careers, remember the story about the university graduate who met with his boss on his first day of work. The graduate went on and on about all of the things he had taken in school and tried to impress the boss with what he knew about the job. The boss quietly served the graduate a cup of coffee and began to pour. He filled the cup to the brim and then kept pouring. The graduate watched the overflowing cup until he could no longer restrain himself.

   “It’s overfull! No more will go in!” the graduate blurted.

   “You are like this cup,” the boss replied. “How can you expect to fit in with this company unless you first empty your cup?”

   So I say to all graduates, as you make your journey through life, pay attention to the new “teachers” along the way who are there to hand you some more water to add to your river. Each time your cup is filled with a new experience, empty it into your personal river, making it even more spectacular and magnificent. Always be willing to fill your cup with new water and as you look back upon the river it will be something you can be proud of. Soon, it will be you who will be sitting by the riverbank handing out river water, just like the Master in the story.  

   Remember, “Wisdom tends to grow in proportion to one’s awareness of one’s ignorance. When you come to see you are not as wise today as you thought you were yesterday, you are wiser today.”

   Have a good week!


We're all in This Together
Let's Use The Community Circle of Support

Editorial by Robert Kirwan

May 15, 2007

As the world seems to shrink thanks in large part to the internet and satellite communication technology which allows us to effortlessly connect to anyone and everyone on this planet, I have noticed that it is getting more and more difficult to feel as if you “belong” to anything. 
What I mean is that in the “old days” which were not that long ago, there was a kind of community spirit that developed among residents who lived in close proximity to each other. You walked down the street and you knew everyone you met. You felt safe and comfortable knowing that everyone would be there to help each other in times of need and truly cared about their neighbours. The rest of the world seemed far away and we could be content living in our own “little corner of the world”, away from the craziness of society.

   We seem to have lost a lot of that “community comfort and security”. Today we know more about the rest of the world than we know about our own neighbourhood. The rapid development of communication technology has allowed us to withdraw from our “own community” and enter whatever other part of the world we want, simply by turning on the computer or watching CNN and other satellite television. There is no longer any need to “belong” to the community in which we live. Indeed, many multi-national corporations are operating via the internet out of homes just like the one you are living in right now, right in your own neighbourhood and you have no idea about the “global community” to which they belong. Things look the same from the outside as they did years ago, but something very important is missing.
   Let me use the following story to illustrate the message I want to leave you with this week.
   There once was a slave named Androcles who escaped from his master and fled into the forest. As he was wandering about he came upon a lion lying down moaning and groaning. At first he turned to run away, but when he noticed that the lion did not chase him, he turned back and went up to the mighty beast. As Androcles came near, the lion put out his paw, which was all swollen and bleeding. When he looked at the paw he saw a huge thorn which was stuck in it causing all the pain. Androcles pulled out the thorn and bound up the paw of the lion who was soon able to rise and lick the hand of Androcles like a dog. The lion then took Androcles to his cave and every day brought him meat on which to survive. Shortly afterwards, both Androcles and the lion were captured and the slave was sentenced to be thrown to the lion which had been kept without food for several days. The Emperor and his people came to see the spectacle. Androcles was led out into the middle of the arena. Soon the lion was released from his den and rushed bounding and roaring towards his victim. But as soon as the lion came near to Androcles, he recognized his friend and fawned upon him, licking his hands like a friendly dog. When the Emperor was told the whole story, Androcles was set free and the lion let loose to return to his native forest.

This story holds a great deal of significance for the people living in Valley East today.  Our community should be all about businesses and residents living in harmony in a circle of support. The businesses of Valley East exist to provide goods and services to the families who live in this community.  Consumers who shop locally help keep the businesses viable and healthy by increasing their sales.  As businesses increase their sales, it enables them to expand, put more people to work and contribute back to the community through sponsorships, donations and other forms of support.
   By reaching out to help each other; in other words with residents who are willing to support local businesses and with businesses who are willing to provide local residents with good value for the goods and services purchased, we will all benefit from the power of this Community Circle of Support and move forward into a brighter future with confidence that we are all in this together.
     I am therefore asking all businesses to make a sincere effort to increase the level of awareness among local residents of the goods and services you have available. I ask all resident to please consider those goods and services before you make purchases elsewhere. Soon, we may rediscover the “feeling that we belong” to this great community of
Valley East .
   Have a good week!


Look For Creative Ways Of Making People You Meet Feel Special 

Editorial by Robert Kirwan

May 8, 2007

   It is awfully difficult these days to find anything positive to say about going to the gas station to fill up on overpriced gasoline. Nevertheless, the other day a young man named Ryan McFadden served me at the local Petro Canada and he reminded me that there are people in this world who have a knack for saying just the right thing to make others feel special.

   I stopped in just before lunch to fill up my wife’s car. Ryan served me, took my $30 and returned with a receipt, offering me a polite, “Have a nice day.”

   After lunch, I returned with my truck and pulled up to the pump. Ryan once again came out and greeted me with a sincere, “Hello. You’re back again.” The fact that he recognized me out of all of the customers who he had seen that day and the fact that he remembered me being there in a different vehicle would have been enough. However, when I gave him my $50 this time along with the Petro Points card, he stopped abruptly and said, “You didn’t have this card this morning. I will put the points from the last purchase on the card for you.” He even remembered the amount of gas I had purchased.
   Obviously Ryan is just pumping gas as a job while he decides what to do with his life. He will continue his education and likely end up in a very nice career. However, what he did that day demonstrated that Ryan has a gift for making people feel special. The fact that he not only remembered and acknowledged that he had served me earlier in the day, but that he also remembered that I had not received the Petro Points I had earned, and then took it upon himself to make sure I was given those points made the pain of getting “gassed at the pumps” a whole lot easier to take.

   The experience with Ryan reminded me of a story I had read about a grocery store bagger named Johnny. Johnny had Down’s Syndrome and decided to do something to make a difference for the customers he met during the day. Since Johnny liked quotations, each day he would pick out one that he liked and he and his father would use the computer to print off a number of copies. Johnny cut the sayings in little strips and then signed his name to the back of the little strips of paper. When he packed the groceries for a customer he would drop the little strip into the bag and say, “I hope you enjoy my quote of the day.”

   Within a few weeks, the lineups at Johnny’s checkout were three times as long as the others. Customers would wait in line just so they could get one of Johnny’s quotes of the day. In fact, some customers were coming to the grocery store 2 or 3 times a week just to see the smile on Johnny’s face as he dropped in his favourite quote.
   Eventually the practice caught on and the lady in the floral department began cutting off broken flowers and pinning them on elderly women; the guy in the meat department was putting his favourite Snoopy stickers on the packages and talking to his customers; everyone was finding creative ways to put their mark on service.

   The lesson here is pretty obvious. When it comes to service, we all have our unique gifts to offer. However we'll never make the emotional connection with the customer unless it begins in our heart. What Ryan did that day may have seemed insignificant, but it certainly left a mark on me. What Johnny did in the grocery story certainly left a mark on his customers. It has made me even more committed to doing my part to making people with whom I come in contact realize that they too are important to me and that I do care about them a lot.

   This week see what you can do to leave your mark on the people with whom you come into contact.

   Have a good week!


Education Week Is An Important Week For "Family Managers"

Editorial by Robert Kirwan

May 1, 2007

This is Education Week!
   It is one week during the year that teachers and students devote to showcasing the accomplishments and achievements of their school community. There are numerous activities, events, and open houses lined up to help increase awareness among the general public of the important place education has in our world today.
   If you are a parent, you really don’t need to be reminded about the importance of education. What goes on at school has an impact on every single facet of family life from the time your youngest child enters Junior Kindergarten until the day he or she finally decides that it is time to leave the classroom and enter the world of work.
   Many parents today don’t realize, however, just how different things were when they were going through the system. It sure seemed a whole lot easier to deal with school matters when my own children were growing up.  Homework was less difficult to understand and I had no trouble helping my children with their assignments. Most of the time we just let the school take care of education responsibilities. Come to think of it, everything about life seemed so much easier to deal with.
   Times are different today – in everything, not just education. Parents are no longer just parents: they are “Family Managers” with responsibilities that include a wide variety of functions, including the management of the education and career planning of their children. In other words, today’s parents MUST take an active role in the education program of their children. They have no choice and it is imperative that they fully understand the implications of provincial testing; IPRC meetings; IEP requirements; special education and resource support; academic vs applied levels of study in high school; college vs university vs apprenticeship options; report cards that have numbers from 1 to 4 instead of percents and letters; etc.
   Many parents are left in a total state of confusion, making an attempt to become involved by “helping” with homework until they recognize that the math being taught in school today does not look like the math they were taught 20 or 30 years ago. They try as hard as they can to “force” their children to keep up with assignments and to get high marks but this often leads to an elevated level of stress in the home and a negative attitude towards education among the children.
   Today’s parents have no choice! They must accept their role as “Family Managers” and within that organizational structure of the family falls the management of Learning and Education programs for children.
   This can mean measures that include anywhere from home schooling to private schools and everything in between from regular schools to special schools to private tutoring. Whatever it takes, it is your responsibility as the “Family Manager” to make sure that effective learning takes place for all members of your “team” – yourself included.
   The primary responsibility for educating your child is no longer the job of the schools. It is your job as a parent and how you manage your choice of schools and your understanding of the school system is critical to your performance as the “Family Manager”.
   Education Week is a good time to remind ourselves of these responsibilities. Take some time this week to visit your child’s school. Talk to the teacher and principal. And don’t just talk about the weather. Talk about substance and become better acquainted with the programs. Ask for explanations. Question policies and philosophies with which you disagree. Visit web sites and check things out.
   Whatever you do, DON’T DO NOTHING! Your job as a “Family Manager” is the most important job you will ever have in your life. Be good at it!
   Have a good week!


The Five Most Dangerous Words In The English Language

Editorial by Robert Kirwan

April 24, 2007

  The last time I took my truck in for repairs my mechanic told me that it was a good thing I came in when I did. He showed me a part that was just about to break and which would have resulted in substantial damage to my engine. As I uttered a sigh of relief, I recalled that for several weeks I had frequently heard a strange sound coming from the engine, but each time I had uttered those five most dangerous words in the English language: MAYBE IT WILL GO AWAY.
   In this case it was the engine of my truck – nothing major really – so what if I had to get a new engine? But I would hate to count the number of times I have attended the funeral of a good friend or family member who also uttered those same words about a lingering pain or uncharacteristic symptom.
   I also recall watching many students in my classes over the years as they struggled and suffered with learning difficulties that were the result of stressful events occurring in their family that parents simply hoped would go away.
Perhaps there is a situation you face in your own life right now that you wish would either go away and disappear with a snap of your fingers or be transformed overnight without any intervention on your part. Whether that circumstance is a dissatisfying career, an unrealized dream, a bad marriage, an injustice you don't want to mention, signs of abuse that you'd rather not acknowledge, or a mile high stack of unopened mail - one thing is certain: wishing that "maybe it will go away" won't make it happen.
   What you need is a course of action that will support the situation you want to create. If you want a satisfying career, then you must get the training and education needed to get you into that career. If you have an unrealized dream, you must do things that will take you closer to that dream. If you have a bad marriage, you must do something to make your marriage better or get out of the marriage. In other words, uttering the five most dangerous words in the English language just won’t work. It is not enough to say MAYBE IT WILL GO AWAY.
   Children are especially vulnerable in when there is a crisis in the family. And whether you tell them or not, they know that something is wrong. They notice when family routines are disrupted or if mom and dad seem more withdrawn and stressed out. They can tell when something is not right and if you don’t communicate with them there is no telling what they might be thinking. Experts always recommend that you confide in your children and you explain things to them in an age-appropriate manner as much as they want to know.  Find a time to tell your children what is going on and you will be saving them from long-lasting effects that may even impact on their education. Something to remember is that the younger the child, the more important it is to communicate. Parents often feel that their two or three year old is too young to notice what is going on in the house, but children who are trying to make sense of their world know when things are not right. A few simple words of explanation can make everything better and will keep them feeling safe and sound.
   So no matter what is causing you stress at this time in your life, create an action plan right now to address the problem. DO NOT fall into the trap of using those five dangerous words, because in most cases, IT WON’T GO AWAY!
   Have a good week!  


Don’t Pay Attention To The Losers Around You – Rise Above Them 

Editorial by Robert Kirwan

April 17, 2007


   If you ask my former students to give their opinion on what kind of teacher I was, I am sure you will get some interesting answers. As a matter of fact, some of them even expressed their opinions to my face – a move that often resulted in disciplinary action such as detentions and suspensions. However, for the most part, I like to think that I made a positive difference in the life of most of the children who came in contact with me during my 28 year career.
   One thing that I hope to be remembered for is that I always took special care to make sure my classroom was a “safe” environment for all learners – regardless of their intellectual, emotional or physical abilities.
   As a “classroom manager” I absolutely despised any kind of action that was intended to embarrass, ridicule or bully another student. I demanded that every single person in my classroom be treated with respect and be “free” to express their ideas and opinions without fear of being laughed at if they made a mistake. I was proud of the fact that my classroom was a place where children were free to try their best and make mistakes without fear of ridicule. It was also a place where children who didn’t accept that principle lived in fear of discipline every single day.
   I learned early in my career that children can be cruel to each other. I also was witness to the fact that many children find out very early in life that it is much easier to fail than to be successful; and that they often gained more notoriety and recognition as failures and discipline problems than those children who were constantly working hard to develop their talents and skills. In my classroom, I constantly encouraged the “failures” to step away from their “bondage” – to step away from the hold that their “loser friends” had on them and to attempt to change in a positive way. However, for many, the subtle strategies employed by the “group” often brought them back into the fold and they once again became problem children in order to fit in with the crowd.
   As a classroom teacher I saw too many bright young boys and girls simply stop trying in order to avoid the criticism and ridicule of the “group”. I saw too many children who were so afraid of being called “geeks” that they simply sat back and put in their time during school, waiting for the opportunity to get away from the “failures and bullies” that were holding them back.
   And so, as I look back on my teaching career, and as I now see some of my former students walking around town with their own children, I hope that among other things, they remember my class as being a safe environment for learning; a place where they felt free to try their best without ridicule and criticism. I hope that I taught them to prevail over the failures and losers they will meet in their life who are committed to spending their time lowering the standards of everyone around them. I hope that they learned to “rise above those who would try to tear you down” and feel the satisfaction of being a positive influence on your family, your fellow workers and you community.
   There will always be winners in this world and there will always be losers who are hoping that the winners will fail. When you dig deep down inside these losers, you will often find people who really would like to be a winner but who are
too scared to try, and they attempt to cover up their own failures as human beings by laughing at others. In a sense we should feel sorry for them.
   Just remember – the world is a better place because of people who try and who are not afraid to do their best. Rise above the losers in the world and don’t let anything stand between you and your dreams.
   Have a good week!


Enduring Life’s Challenges Will Give You The Strength To Reach Your Treasure

Editorial by Robert Kirwan

April 10, 2007


   The other day I was having a conversation with a friend about how the younger generation today seems to expect to have everything handed to them on a silver platter. Not all young people fall into this category, but it is clear that many teenagers and young adults seem to feel as if they are “entitled” to things that previous generations had to work hard to achieve. If you know anyone who belongs to this “entitled generation” give them a copy of the following story.

   One day, a long time ago, a young man went to visit the oldest and wisest man in the village for some advice on how he could become rich and famous. The wise elder listened to the young man tell of his dreams and of his ambition to achieve success beyond that which anyone had ever imagined.

   “Fame and fortune is yours to be had at the top of yonder mountain,” advised the wise man, as he pointed to a tall mountain in the distance. “You must travel on foot to the top of the mountain. There you will find riches beyond your belief. When you arrive there you will have but one chance to claim the treasure for yourself. Once you leave the top of the mountain, whatever remains will be lost forever.”

   The young man was very excited and could hardly wait until the morning when he was to meet with the wise old man for final instructions. In the morning when he arrived at the wise old man’s home, the young man saw a long, thick log lying on the ground in front of the house.

   “What is that for?” asked the puzzled young man.

   “You must carry this log on your journey to the top of the mountain,” explained the wise old man.

   “But why?” the young man questioned. “What use is this log? It weighs so much and will slow me down on my journey. I want to claim my fortune quickly.”

   The wise old man merely looked at the young man, and then down at the heavy log, and quietly said, “The log is a necessary part of the journey. You must take it with you to the top of the mountain to claim your treasure.”

   The young man was not pleased with this sudden surprise, but he respected the wise old man and as he lifted the long, heavy log onto his shoulders and struggled down the road towards the mountain he realized that the trip would not be as easy as he thought.

   After he was walking for a while, a woodsman came up to him and said, “It looks like that log is pretty heavy. Would you like me to cut some of if off to make it lighter?”

   The young man was exhausted and with so much of the journey yet to be travelled, was afraid that he would never make it up the mountain with the heavy burden, so he said, “I suppose that a little bit cut off the end wouldn’t hurt. Thanks for your help”. And the woodsman cut eight inches off the end.

   The young man continued to struggle up the mountain and finally he arrived at the top. There at the very peak of the mountain was the most beautiful treasure he had ever seen. This was his dream. All that stood between him and his treasure was a wide opening in the earth which surrounded the mountain peak. The crevice was very deep and there was only one way to get across the opening. Now it became clear to the young man why the wise old man had given him this log to carry on his journey.

   The excited young man lay the log across the gap and discovered to his dismay that it was eight inches too short to span the distance. The eight inches that he had allowed to be cut off to lighten his load on his journey to his treasure. As he turned despondently to walk down the mountain side, he looked back with tearful eyes and saw his treasure slowly disappear.

   The young man learned a lesson that for many of us comes too late in life. Our dreams and our treasures are within our reach, but in order to get them we must first of all experience the struggles it takes to get there. Only then will we have what it takes to finally reach out and claim our treasure at the end of the journey. If we lighten the load too much along the way, our treasure may end up just out of reach.

   The next time you find yourself struggling with life’s challenges, remember that it will be all worth it when you finally reach the top of the mountain to claim your reward.

   Have a good week!

Decide On Your Big Goals First And Stay Focused!

Editorial by Robert Kirwan

April 3, 2007


   I recently read an interesting book which was written by Eileen Shapiro and Howard Stevenson. The name of the book was “Make Your Own Luck”. 

   The book was based on the fact that every action we take during the course of our life is a ‘bet’. In other words, the actions we take today and the decisions we make are based on the expectation or hope, but not the certainty, of achieving certain desired results in the future.
   Human beings we bet all of the time. We cannot avoid it. Everything we do in life is a bet. It is a bet that the time and resources we invest now through our actions will achieve some desired benefit as a result of those actions. Even the act of driving our car is a bet that the choices we make along the way will get us to our destination point. Sometimes we lose that bet if our car breaks down or we get involved in an accident. When we drive over the speed limit, we are betting that there won’t be a police officer around the corner. The list of daily bets is endless.
   What amazed me most about this book was the way the authors were able to explain how easy it is for us to gain control of our life simply by becoming more focussed on the “big goals” instead of all of the smaller ones.  We can dramatically improve our odds of achieving our desired results and therefore go from depending on dumb luck to actually taking more control over our own destinies.

   This message really hit home in one of the early chapters when the authors were relating an experience they had one day while conducting a job interview for the position of manager of one of their companies. A man named Dean Kamen was one of the candidates for the position and he was asked a number of questions during the course of the interview. One of the questions was, “Imagine you are stranded on a deserted island. If you could choose one person to be stranded with you, who would it be?”

   The authors expected Mr. Kamen to give one of the typical answers that people usually give to this question, such as, “your spouse, a great philosopher, an athlete, a famous religious figure, a sexy movie star, a story teller or a close friend or family member.” What would your answer be?

   Mr. Kamen surprised the authors with his answer. He thought for a moment and then said, “The world’s best boat builder.”

   Mr. Kamen realized that his ‘big goal” was to get off the island. He could have selected a companion who would make life much easier for himself while he was stranded on the island waiting to be saved. Instead, he selected a companion who would be able to help him get off the island and thus control his own destiny.
   Needless to say, Mr. Kamen got the job.
   The message for all of us is that as long as we keep our big goals in mind and take actions that will help us move towards those big goals, we will increase the odds of achieving our desired outcomes. Our chances of ‘winning’ most of the bets we make in this ‘game of life’ will be much greater if we think more like Mr. Kamen. If we want to ‘get off the island’ on which we are ‘stranded’ , then we should be thinking about finding a ‘boat builder’, not someone who will merely make us comfortable in our misery.  

   If life truly is a series of “bets”, then I want to increase my odds of winning every time I place a bet. By focusing on what I need to achieve the “big goals” in my life those odds will be improved and I will be in control of my own destiny.
   Have a good week!

Use The Triple Filter Method The Next Time You Hear A Rumour

Editorial by Robert Kirwan

March 27, 2007


   Wouldn’t it be nice if we could put an end to rumours and gossip?
   How many times in the past have you been guilty of passing on some juicy information that you heard from someone you thought you could trust only to find out later that what you originally heard was wrong? Whenever that happens to me I get a terrible feeling in the pit of my stomach, knowing that I have contributed to the spread of this false information. Each time I vow never to get caught again…but inevitably history repeats itself.
   Well, I think I’ve finally found a method which will protect me from rumour and gossip forever. It is such a good piece of advice that I want to share it with all of my readers in an attempt to eliminate all forms of rumour and gossip.
   The next time you either hear or are about to repeat a rumour, think about the following story about the Greek philosopher, Socrates, who lived from 469 to 399 BC. He was widely known and respected for his wisdom.
   Once day the great philosopher came upon an acquaintance who ran up to him excitedly and said,
“Socrates, do you know what I just heard about one of your students?”

Wait a moment," Socrates replied. “Before you tell me I'd like you to pass a little test. It's called the Triple Filter Test.”

   “Triple filter?”

   “That's right,” Socrates continued. "Before you talk to me about my Student let's take a moment to filter what you're going to say.  The first filter is Truth. Have you made absolutely sure that what you are about to tell me is true?”
   “No,” the man said, “Actually I just heard about it.”

   “All right,” said Socrates. “So you don't really know if it's true or not. Now let's try the second filter, the filter of Goodness. Is what you are about to tell me about my student something good?”

   “No, on the contrary ...”

   “So,” Socrates continued, “you want to tell me something bad about him, even though you're not certain it's true?”

   The man shrugged, a little embarrassed. Socrates continued. “You may still pass the test though, because there is a third filter - the filter of Usefulness. Is what you want to tell me about my student going to be useful to me?”

   “No, not really ...”

   “Well," concluded Socrates, “if what you want to tell me is neither true nor good nor even useful, why tell it to me at all?”

   The man was defeated and ashamed.
   The lesson here is one that we can apply in just about all areas of our life. Whether you are a parent, a teacher, a friend, a co-worker, or just an acquaintance, the next time someone starts to tell you a bit of gossip about another person, simply perform the “Triple Filter” test on them. If they fail any part of the filter test, then it is likely not worth your while to listen.
   Moreover, the next time you are tempted to talk about someone else, or the next time you want to share some secret with another person, take a couple of moments and do the “triple filter” test on yourself.

   If you have an urge to say anything of which you are not certain is true; if you have an urge to say anything which is not good about someone else, or; if you have an urge to say something which is not even useful to the person to whom you are speaking, then why say anything at all. Stop the rumours and gossip that you are spreading! Refuse to listen to rumours and gossip from others! Then we can put an end to rumours and gossip once and for all.
   Have a good week!

“If You Always Do What You’ve Always Done You’ll Always Get What You’ve Always Got”

Editorial by Robert Kirwan

March 13, 2007

I recently saw a documentary on television about Alcatraz Prison. It was a famous fortress that housed some of the most hardened criminals of all time. The cameras followed the person doing the show and he explained how many men had tried to escape, but only one was known to have succeeded.  He went on to point out how the prison was built on an island in such a way that it was virtually impossible to escape.
   As usual, my mind wouldn’t just let me enjoy the show and I soon started to think about how this show was so much like an article I had just finished reading. The article was about the other prisons that are equally confining in this world. But those prisons have doors that are never locked; there are no guards around the perimeter; and escape is not only encouraged, it is actually possible.
   As the host of the show continued to talk, I could clearly see the similarities in both prisons. First, there was Alcatraz , which was man-made and constructed on an island to keep criminals away from the rest of the world. Then there was the other prison, which is self-made and tends to keep us away from the rest of the world where we might be able to enjoy the best that this life has to offer. That second prison is called Habit.
   In the article I was reading, Dr. Jay Dishman described Habit in the following way:
   “Habit is thinking about ourselves and our environment as a jail or paradise. We need only to look around us and we will see people who are rich emotionally and materially because they think and feel rich. We also see people who are laden with emotional and material debt because they think and feel poor. Some are inspired with vision, others are encumbered with doubt. Some are moved by ambition, others feel safer in monotony. Some reach for the mountain tops, others huddle in the pits. Some seek opportunity, others wait for it to knock. The sad fact is that we find far more people who are confined by their thoughts than we find people who are fed by them.”
   What Dr. Dishman was describing is so true. Many of us are locked inside a prison by negative thinking. And yet all we have to do to set ourselves free is to renew our mind. By renewing your mind and your thoughts, you change your habit of thinking and you renew your life at the same time.
   The title of this week’s editorial is a quote I actually  have taped on the top of my computer screen. “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.”
   Each time I find that I am beginning to lock myself inside a mental prison, afraid to be inspired by some new vision of mine, I glance at the quotation and ask myself if I am becoming a victim of habit. I ask myself if there is a better way of doing what I want to do…if there is a faster way of doing what I want to do. I don’t want to be trapped by Habit. I want to feel the freedom and exhilaration that comes from being inspired by a vision that few others can see. I want to reach for the mountain tops. I want to reach out and take hold of opportunities, not sit back and wait for opportunity to come knocking.
   Habit is safe. Habit is predictable. Habit keeps your life on an even keel and allows you to “fit in” with the rest of society. Habit is also appreciated by those around you who need predictability and who want to know what to expect from you at all times. That is why we spend so much time teaching our young children routines, so that they become habit forming and controlling.
   Most certainly you will encounter your share of failure and disappointment, but as the saying goes, “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!”
   Don’t allow yourself to remain trapped inside a prison with no locks, no doors and no guards. Escape today…
   Have a good week!

“Giving Up The Good Now For A Better Future”

Editorial by Robert Kirwan

March 6, 2007


   We all like to hear a good riddle now and then. It is fun to try to guess the “trick answer” or come up with the “punch line”. The neat thing about riddles is that once you’ve heard the answer it tends to stay with you forever. The next time you hear the same riddle, the answer pops right up in your head and out comes the correct answer. You may not have “got it” the first time, but our brain seems to process the answer so that we are never tricked again.
   The other day I came across an interesting riddle. Let me try it out on you…
   While you are thinking about the answer, I want you to read the following brief warning which was written by a man named Frank Outlaw. It is entitled “It’s All About Character”.
   Watch your thoughts; they become words.
   Watch your words; they become actions.
   Watch your actions; they become habits.
   Watch your habits; they become character.
   Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.

   No, it’s not three; it’s five. 

   DECIDING TO FLY and ACTUALLY FLYING are two different things. So even though two of the birds DECIDE to fly south, it doesn’t mean that they actually left yet.
   Strangely, when I read the riddle I didn’t have the urge to laugh. Instead I reflected upon the life lesson that this riddle has to offer to all who hear it. What the riddle is saying to you is that you will never get anywhere you want to go in this life until you point yourself in the right direction, jump off the wire and flap your wings. Two birds may have decided to fly south, but until they jump off the wire, they will never have a chance of getting there.
   I’ve come across many people during the course of my life who had dreams and aspirations, but they just couldn’t jump off the wire. I’ve seen people who wanted to reduce weight to improve their health, but who could not resist the urge to have a donut or chocolate bar, rationalizing their actions by having a diet Pepsi as well. Anyone can want to be thin when they are not hungry. The problem is when they are hungry they are tempted by the momentary pleasure that comes from eating that one donut.
   The same can be said about a person who is trying to quit smoking. It is easy to quit right after you’ve put out a cigarette. The real challenge is to resist the urge to light up later on in the day. Cutting back on drinking; eating junk food; fast food diets – it is always easy to set goals and say that you are going to stop drinking; stop eating junk food; and stop going to fast food restaurants. But it is too easy to fall to temptation later on.
   In the end, it’s not our goals that determine the quality of our life; it's our actions. When there’s a conflict between what we want NOW and what we want for the future, LATER seems so much more attractive than now -- but it`s not a good life strategy.
   I love donuts, but I’ve never had one that was so good that the pleasure lasted for more than a few moments.
   The key to a happy and satisfying life therefore, is to resist urges and impulses for momentary pleasures that may sabotage long-term goals. Lots of things that feel good aren’t good for us, and lots of things that are fun won’t make us happy.
   As I leave you this week, I want to leave you with a quote by Dante: “There is no greater sorrow than to recall in misery the time when we were happy.” 

Giving up the good `now` for a better `later` shouldn’t be seen as a sacrifice; it’s an investment.
   Have a good week!


Editorial by Robert Kirwan

February 27, 2007


    One night last week my wife and I had the privilege of baby sitting our two granddaughters. Yes. We consider it a privilege every time we have an opportunity to spend time with them. Unfortunately, I had to attend a meeting so it was around 8:30 when I finally arrived at the house. My wife told me that my oldest granddaughter had been asking for me all night, wondering when Grandpa was coming. Thankfully, she was still awake and when she saw me I picked her up and she hugged my neck for what seemed like an eternity. We didn’t say a word to each other. Just hugged and snuggled.
   The previous night I had come across the following story in one of my email messages. Before I write another word, I want you to read it. It was entitled, “Stay”.
   Late one night at the hospital, a nurse took a tired, anxious serviceman to the bedside of a dying patient.
   "Your son is here," she said to the old man. She had to repeat the words several times before the patient's eyes opened. Heavily sedated because of the pain of his heart attack, he dimly saw the young uniformed Marine standing outside the oxygen tent. He reached out his hand. The Marine wrapped his toughened fingers around the old man's limp ones, squeezing a message of love and encouragement.
   The nurse brought a chair so that the Marine could sit beside the bed. All through the night the young Marine sat there in the poorly lighted ward, holding the old man's hand and offering him words of love and strength.
   Occasionally, the nurse suggested that the Marine move away and rest awhile. He refused. Whenever the nurse came into the ward, the Marine was oblivious of her and of the night noises of the hospital; the clanking of the oxygen tank, the laughter of the night staff members exchanging greetings, the cries and moans of the other patients.
   Now and then she heard him say a few gentle words. The dying man said nothing, only held tightly to his son all through the night.
   Along towards dawn, the old man died. The Marine released the now lifeless hand he had been holding and went to tell the nurse. While she did what she had to do, he waited. Finally, she returned. She started to offer words of sympathy, but the Marine interrupted her.
   "Who was that man?" he asked.
   The nurse was startled, "He was your father," she answered.
   "No, he wasn't," the Marine replied. "I never saw him before in my life."
   "Then why didn't you say something when I took you to him?"
   "I knew right away there had been a mistake, but I also knew he needed his son, and his son just wasn't here. When I realized that he was too sick to tell whether or not I was his son, knowing how much he needed me, I stayed."
   As my granddaughter and I held each other, I couldn’t help but recall the story about the Marine and the old man at the hospital.  I don’t know who needed each other more that night. One thing I am sure of is that my granddaughter felt the love I felt as we held each other. It must have been the same with the Marine and the old man.
   There is a saying that I turn to every now and then when I want to remind myself about what is important in this world. The saying is: “We are not human beings going through a temporary spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings going through a temporary human experience.”
   I regretted not being able to be with my granddaughter for the entire evening. It was unfortunate that I had a meeting to attend, but were it not for the meeting, I may not have had that wonderful, spiritual experience I had with her that night.
   The hug may have lasted only a couple of minutes, but I will remember the feeling for the rest of my life.
   The next time someone needs you…just be there. Stay. It is truly a privilege to be needed by another human being…just be there.
   Have a good week!

In This World You Tend To Get What You Expect So Make Sure You Set Your Sights High

Editorial by Robert Kirwan

February 20, 2007

    It doesn’t matter whether you are at work or at play; young or old; rich or poor; man or woman - in this world you will find yourself always being judged and evaluated according to your performance. And yet, one’s personal level of performance is often a direct result of the expectations of people around them or to whom they are responsible. If someone expects you to fail at something, you often live down to that expectation. If they expect you to succeed, you do everything you can to live up to that expectation.
    As a classroom teacher I saw this all the time. There were many students who came into my class with low marks and a reputation for having poor work habits. Their parents would tell me that they couldn’t find anything that would motivate their child to complete assignments and homework and that they had faced failure and challenges for years. 

   I have always had a reputation for being a stubborn man, so I would usually ignore previous reports and establish high expectations for ALL of my pupils. Many of them protested that they "couldn’t" do the work. They complained that other teachers had understood their “learning difficulties” and would reduce the workload or modify the program.  I held my ground and would very forcefully tell them that there was no reason of which I was aware to accept a lower standard and moreover, I assured them that I would never assign anything which I felt was beyond their capabilities. Things might not be easy, but they would be achievable with hard work and determination.
   By showing them that I felt they were competent, and that in my capacity as their teacher, I had the confidence in their ability to succeed, most of them discovered a new level of success that surprised their parents and former teachers alike. Best of all, they surprised themselves at the work they were able to accomplish once they set their sights and their own personal standards higher. Many of these former students have returned at various stages of their life to thank me for “being so hard on them”, and for “helping them build up their own self-confidence and self-esteem”. Time after time I have heard these young adults tell me that all they needed was someone to “push them to new heights” and someone who they knew “was going to be there for support and guidance along the way when they needed help.”
   Readers who are familiar with baseball will remember Pete Rose, or will at least recall having read something about his playing ability. One day he was being interviewed during spring training the year he was about to break Ty Cobb’s all time hits record. A reporter asked him, "Pete, you only need 78 hits to break the record. How many at bats do you think you’ll need to get the 78 hits?"
   Without hesitation, Pete looked at the reporter and said, "78."
   The report yelled back, "Come on, Pete. You don’t expect to get 78 hits in 78 bat bats do you?"
   Rose explained, "Every time I step up to the plate I expect to get a hit. If I go up there only hoping to get a hit, then I probably don’t have a prayer."
   Rose’s philosophy is one that we all should adopt.
   If you hope to finish the project; if you hope to be a good father; if you hope to get higher marks; if you hope to finish your may do an adequate job, but you will never reach your true potential. You MUST approach everything in life with the expectation that you will always be successful. Nothing else is acceptable. You should never do anything merely hoping to succeed. You MUST approach everything you do in life fully expecting to accomplish your objectives. You may not get a "hit" every time you go to bat, but you at least have to "expect" that you will or you will never get anywhere.
   So next time you find yourself doubting your abilities, or you are unsure about whether or not you are capable of handling your responsibilities, remember Pete Rose. Go into everything in your life with the expectation that you will do a great job, and you will be surprised at how well you actually perform. And if someone else gives you a task that seems a bit too difficult for you to handle, just remember one very important thing. If that if that person who gave you the task thinks you can do it, so should you. 
   Have a good week!

No Matter Where You Go or Who You Become Never Forget Who Helped You Get There

Editorial by Robert Kirwan

February 13, 2007

   Sometimes it takes many years of living for a person to really appreciate how much others did for us as we were going through life’s ups and downs. As you get older and look back upon your life, you begin to realize that you didn’t make it on your own. You had plenty of help along the way. The trouble is that we were not often aware that the help was there and worse of all, when we were aware, we may not have expressed our the way you should have.

   If there is one message I would like to get across to young adults who are beginning their trek down the long road of life, it’s simply, “No matter where you go or who you become, never forget who helped you get there.” And don’t miss out on an opportunity to thank them. This message is best expressed in a little passage I came across the other day on the internet. It is simply entitled, ‘Friends’; author unknown.

   “In the first grade your idea of a good friend was the person who went to the bathroom with you and held your hand as you walked through the scary halls.

   In the third grade your idea of a good friend was the person who shared lunch with you when you forgot yours on the bus.

   In the fifth grade your idea of a good friend was the person who saved a seat on the back of the bus for you.

   In the seventh grade your idea of a friend was the person who let you copy the math homework from the night before that you had forgotten.

   In the ninth grade your idea of a good friend was the person who convinced your parents you shouldn’t be grounded.

   In the eleventh grade your idea of a good friend was the person who gave you rides in their new car and found you a date to the dance.

   Now your idea of a good friend is still the person who gives you the better of two choices; holds your hand when you’re scared; helps you fight off those who try to take advantage of you; thinks of you at times when you are not there; reminds you of what you have forgotten; helps you put the past behind you but understands when you need to hold on to it a little longer; stays with you so that you have confidence; goes out of their way to make time with you; helps you clear up your mistakes; helps you deal with pressure from others; smiles for you when you are sad; helps you become a better person; and most importantly, loves you!

   The message I want to leave you today is simple. Stay close to your friends and family, for they have helped you become the person that you are today. Never be afraid to express your love and to tell someone what they mean to you. The difference between expressing love and having regrets is that the regrets may stay around forever. The loved ones may be gone tomorrow.

   There’s never a wrong time to pick up a phone or send a message telling your friends how much you miss them or how much you love them. Take this opportunity around Valentine’s Day to send a message of love to a friend. If you don’t, you will have once again passed up a chance to do something loving and beautiful.

   Seize the day and have no regrets.”

   Have a good week


Take Time To Read The Handwriting On The Wall

Editorial by Robert Kirwan

February 6, 2007


   Just the other day a friend of mine came up to me while I was in the middle of rearranging my schedule to accommodate an unforeseen problem that had just arisen and he asked, “How can you stay so calm and relaxed? Don’t you ever get upset at anything? This would drive me crazy!”
   I smiled and shrugged my shoulders while telling him, “I’ve learned that getting upset doesn’t make your problems go away. It just gets in the way of dealing with things and moving on.”
   In fact, there is one little story I read a long time ago that had a great deal of influence on how I react to things today. At the time I first read the story I was the kind of person who could “fly off the handle” very easily and I often over reacted to things that other people told me before I investigated the situation myself. After reading the story I changed my attitude and learned to wait until I had all of the facts so that I could form my own opinions and arrive at my own conclusions.

   Let me share the story with you.

   One day a weary mother returned from the store, lugging groceries into the kitchen. Awaiting her arrival was her eight-year old son, eager to relate to her what his five-year old younger brother had done.
   “Mommy,” he said, “I was outside and dad was on the phone and Billy took his crayons and wrote on the wall. It’s on the new wall paper you just hung in the den. I told him you’d be mad and would have to do it over again.”
   She let out a moan and furrowed her brow while shouting, “Where is your little brother?”
   She emptied her arms and with a purposeful stride marched to his closet where he had gone to hide, calling his full name as she entered his bedroom. Billy trembled with fear as he emerged from the closet, knowing full well that he was in deep trouble.
   For the next ten minutes, she ranted and raved about the expensive wallpaper and how she had saved for so long to get it done. She condemned his actions and total lack of care and respect. The more she scolded the angrier she became.

   Then she stomped from his room, totally distraught. She headed for the den to confirm her fears.
   When she saw the wall, her eyes flooded with tears.
   The message she read pierced her soul like a knife.
   It said, “I Love Mommy,” surrounded by a heart.
   Well, needless to say, the wallpaper remained, just as she found it, with an empty picture frame hung to surround it as a reminder to her and indeed to all who saw it from that day forward to “take time to read the handwriting on the wall”.
   There have been many times in my life when I have been thankful for avoiding the urge to jump to conclusions too soon. I discovered that it is always better to make the RIGHT decision rather than make a QUICK decision that turns out to be wrong. I have learned that unless it is a matter of extreme urgency, I am always better off taking time to gather all of the relevant details before forming an opinion or taking action. Far too often I have found myself in situations where I wished I could have taken back my words or turned back the clock and made different choices that would have resulted in much more desirable outcomes.
   And so, as I related to my friend, it’s not a matter of never getting upset over things. Just ask some of my former students and they will confirm that I can certainly get upset from time to time and that I’m not always calm and relaxed. I’ve just found that taking time to “read the handwriting on the wall” before reacting to most situations is a much better way of handling everything that life throws your way.
   Have a good week!

Break Through The Terror Barrier and Set Yourself Free

Editorial by Robert Kirwan

January 30, 2007


   It is with sadness that I must admit that for the first twenty-two years of my life here on Planet Earth I was held back from so many wonderful experiences by what is often referred to as the ‘Terror Barrier’.
   The first time I can recall coming face-to-face with the ‘Terror Barrier’ was when I was about ten years old. I was with a group of friends and we were playing on the side of a hill on the outskirts of Lively. There was a cave with an opening that was just barely wide enough to squeeze through. You had to put your arms in first and then wiggle through the four foot tunnel. One by one my friends all went into the cave. Some of them encountering great difficulty and needing to be pulled and pushed to get to the other side. When it was my turn, I faced the opening and there it was! ‘The Terror Barrier’.

   My friends were all encouraging me to come through, but no matter what they said, I will never forget the terror that gripped my mind and body as I looked at the small opening. The coaxing did absolutely no good. There was no way I was going to crawl into the hole.

   That day I lost out on the thrill and excitement that my friends shared as they sat in the cave and enjoyed some bantering and unique exploration opportunities. I also lost a little bit of self-respect.

   There were many other times in my life up to the age of twenty-two when I came face-to-face with the ‘Terror Barrier’. There was the time when I was so afraid of rejection that I didn’t ask my wife, who was sixteen at the time I met her in Creighton, to attend the annual Spring Bowling banquet with me. I still remember attending the banquet alone and hating myself when she too showed up at the event by herself. We spent a lot of time together at that dance and only later, when I finally had the courage to ask her to go out with me did I discover that she had turned down four other boys, telling them that she was already going to the banquet with someone else, all the while waiting in hope for me to ask her to be my date. I still kick myself for not being able to break through the ‘Terror Barrier’ and ask her to that banquet. I actually had nothing to fear, but I still could not get past the barrier.

   I was imprisoned by my own fears and lack of self confidence until the day I graduated from university. I can still remember vividly the feeling that came over me as I vowed that I would never again allow the ‘Terror Barrier’ to keep me from enjoying all of the possibilities that lay ahead in my life. I promised myself on that very day that no matter how great the challenge, I would never again back down in fear. I would take on anything and everything that came in my way.

   For twenty-two years I had stepped back from anything and everything I truly feared. When I looked at my diploma on graduation day, I said “no more” and I have been free ever since.

   If you think hard enough, you may recall times when you have come face to face with the’ Terror Barrier’. You either stepped through it to freedom or back into bondage, imprisoned by your own fears.

   The Terror Barrier comes up in front of us every time we attempt to make a major move in life, especially when it is into an area we have never traveled before. You can’t escape it. There is always the fear of the unknown, or worse, the fear of rejection or failure. I have spoken with countless people, young and old, who come right up to that barrier wanting to go ahead but not being able to. These were people who could have succeeded and wanted to go forward, but didn’t, and lived to regret their decision.

   I like to think that these weekly editorials will help some of my readers break through the ‘Terror Barriers’ that they come up against in their life. When you finally summon up all of your strength and make a decision to “go for it”, most often you discover that the barrier was nothing more than an illusion; something that you built up in your own mind; something that really wasn’t that bad after all. The next time it happens, just say to yourself, “No more” and set yourself free.

   Have a good week!


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