An Online Publication written by Robert Kirwan
Presented by The Learning Clinic Education Centre

Special Messages To Motivate & Inspire Students & Parents 

by Robert Kirwan, O.C.T., B.A.(Math), M.A.(Education)
Professional Learning Coach & Director of
The Learning Clinic Education Centre

The Purpose of Life Is To Matter; To Count; To Stand for something; To Have It Make Some Difference That We Lived At All......Leo Rosten

REFLECTIONS ON LEARNING FOR STUDENTS AND PARENTS is one of a series of online publications that are being made available through The Learning Clinic Education Centre. 

Whether you are a student, parent, or grandparent, I think you will agree that Leo Rosten's quotation above says it all. This is our purpose in life. To make a difference in the lives of others. I have taken on many roles during my own life. A husband, a parent, a teacher, a son, a brother, a friend - no matter what hat I wore, as I look back over my life I like to think that I have made a difference in the lives of the people I have touched.

And now, in my role as a Professional Learning Coach, I am convinced that this is what living life to the fullest is all about. It is one of the main reasons why I have created this online publication, STRATEGIES FOR SUCCESS. Life is all about discovery; finding hidden talents and interests; experiencing all there is about life so that you can make wise decisions as you grow and develop into a mature, responsible individual? That should be the purpose of education. It is about learning who you are and being true to yourself so that you can fulfill your dreams and enjoy a career in which you can find satisfaction and happiness, not only in your work but in every aspect of your life.

I want to share with you a little story that I feel expresses how I feel about THE LEARNING CLINIC EDUCATION CENTRE and my role as a Professional Learning Coach. I know I am only one person, and it will be hard to change the world, but I think you will soon see why this is one of my favourite stories of all time and why I return to this story often for inspiration. 

It is called The Star Thrower, and is written by Loren Eiseley. Her story has been told and retold so many times that I am sure it would be next to impossible to find the original version, but the story goes something like this:

beaches,iStockphoto,oceans,sea life,starfish,seashores,summers,tides,tropicsTHE STAR THROWER

Once upon a time there was an old man who used to go to the ocean to walk along the beach and enjoy the waves crashing upon the rocks. Early one morning he was walking along the shore by himself. As he looked down the deserted beach, he saw a human figure in the distance. As he got closer to the stranger, he saw that it was a young teenage boy. The boy was reaching down to the sand, picking up something and very gently throwing it into the ocean. As the old man got closer, he yelled out, "Good morning, young fellow. What are you doing?"

The teenager paused, looked up and replied, "Throwing starfish back in the ocean."

"Why on earth are you doing that?" asked the old man.

The boy replied, "Because the sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them in they’ll die."

The old man looked at the teenager in disbelief and said, "But the beach goes on for miles and miles and there are starfish all along it. You can’t possibly make a difference."

The young boy listened politely, then bent down, picked up another starfish and threw it into the sea, past the breaking waves and said, "It made a difference for that one." And then the very wise young boy continued on his way down the beach, bending down and throwing starfish after starfish back into the ocean.

Whenever I feel like I am up against tremendous odds and that my efforts are hopeless in the larger scheme of things, I think about The Starfish Thrower. I would advise every student, parent and grandparent to make a copy of this story and keep it somewhere handy so that every time you wonder about your worthiness you can read it.

We have all been gifted with the ability to make a difference. It is just like Leo Rosten stated in the title to this article: "The purpose of life is to matter; to count; to stand for something; to have it make some difference that we lived at all".

It is my personal belief that there is something very special in each and every one of us. It is also my belief that it is our responsibility as human beings to reach out to the people who come into our life and make a difference by sharing those special gifts. And the wonderful thing is that we can all accomplish this with very little effort.

You may not be able to change the world, and you may not be able to make a difference to everyone, but you certainly can make a difference to most of the people you meet.

The young boy in the story understood this very important meaning of life. He represents all young persons who have the courage to experience all there is to encounter along their journey of life. They are not afraid to reach out and try new things.

The old man in the story had become skeptical from his experiences with others. He had adopted the philosophy that if he cannot change the world, there is no use in even trying. He would sit back and do nothing to save the starfish. 

What he learned from the young boy on the beach is that even if the odds are against you and it seems as if there is little you can do, what little you can get done will definitely make some difference. It doesn’t matter how long your journey may be, you can still only get there one step at a time.

Don’t miss out on a golden opportunity to make it a real difference that you have lived at all. Live your life to the fullest and be the best you can be.

"Decide On Your Big Goals First And Stay Focused!"

I recently read an interesting book one day 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 focused 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.

I hope that in some small way, the stories that are part of STRATEGIES FOR SUCCESS will help you focus on your big goals. I also hope that some of the suggestions and advice you are about to read will help you develop strategies that will help you successfully achieve your goals.

This online publication is meant to be read in small doses. Take a look at the titles and go to the ones that jump off the screen at you. Trust your intuition. Go with your heart and find your passion. My job as your Professional Learning Coach is to help you along the way. I want to be your "boat builder". I want to get you off the island you are on right now and take you to your destiny.

Let's enjoy the trip!

The Learning Clinic  Presents...





This Is The Only House You Will Ever Really Live In - Built It Right The First Time 

   I’ve met a lot of people over the course of my lifetime. Some I remember with fondness and some I would rather forget. 

   While I was working as the Director of Public Relations for the Hanmer Valley Shopping Centre, I met a quiet, unassuming gentleman who has taught me a lot more about life than he can ever imagine. I want to share his story with you.
   John Lancia was the custodian of the shopping center. He retired at the end of March after a career that spanned 27 years. What is most remarkable about this man is that he is 77 years old. His working life has included 15 years with the railway, 20 years in the mines, and 27 years working for Mr. Val Mazzuca at the mall.
   During the retirement party which was held for him I thought back to a story I once read. Let me share it with you before I go any further about John.

   This story is about an elderly carpenter who was ready to retire. He told his employer-contractor of his plans to leave the house building business and live a more leisurely life with his wife enjoying his extended family. He would miss the paycheck, but he needed to retire. They could get by.
   The contractor was sorry to see his good worker go and asked if he could build just one more house as a personal favor. The carpenter said yes, but in time it was easy to see that his heart was not in his work. He resorted to shoddy workmanship and used inferior materials. It was an unfortunate way to end his career.
   When the carpenter finished his work and the builder came to inspect the house, the contractor handed the front-door key to the carpenter. "This is your house," he said, "my gift to you."
   What a shock! What a shame! If he had only known he was building his own house, he would have done it all so differently. Now he had to live in the home he had built none too well.

   As I watched John going around the room, being congratulated by some of his close friends and family, and as I listened to the speeches that reflected upon this man’s life, I realized how easy it is for us to fall into the same trap as the carpenter in the story.  So often we build our lives in a distracted way, willing to put up less than the best. So often at work we are content with giving a mediocre performance and not giving the job our best effort.  And then we are shocked when we look at the situation we have created and realize we are now living in the “house we have built”.
   We should all think of ourselves as the carpenter. Each day we are building our house. Everything we do is like hammering another nail, placing a board or erecting a wall. We should take care and build it wisely. It is the only life we will ever build. Even if you live for only one more day, that day deserves to be lived graciously and with dignity.
   I looked over at John. He was overwhelmed with the attention he was receiving from his employer, his friends, from former mayors and other people who held esteemed positions in the community. John Lancia – a custodian – receiving all of this attention from so many important people.
   John spent the evening thanking everyone for making the evening so special. He and his wife, Chummy came to see me the following week to ask me if I could put something in The Vision Paper to express their appreciation to everyone who came to the party.
   When he left my office I thought back to the party. Over 100 people gathered together. They were not there to say good bye and give their best wishes to a custodian. They were there to pay tribute to a “master carpenter”. A person who treated everyone he met with respect. A person who couldn’t do enough to help other human beings – friend or stranger. A person who never thought about what he could get out of life, but what he could give to life – what he could give to others. A person who was totally committed and focused on his family.
   I will extend your expression of appreciation to everyone who came to your party, John. But on behalf of everyone who has ever met that, friendly and helpful custodian at the Hanmer Valley Shopping Centre, I also want to thank you, John, for showing us how to build our own house. You gave us a gift that will last forever. Everyone of us who came to your party were coming to admire the house you built – to extend our thanks to you, for allowing us to enter your “house” and seeing what can be done when you put your heart and soul into every day of your life.

   Our life today is the result of our attitudes and choices in the past. Our life tomorrow will be the result of our attitudes and the choices we make today.  All we can hope for is to be able to one day live in a house as wonderful as John Lancia’s. 

   And so the message for all young students is pretty clear. As you go through life, make sure that you give your best effort at all times. Live life to the fullest. You are building your own 'house' with everyone you meet and with every action. People are watching you. They want to see what kind of 'carpenter' you are. Make sure you are proud of 'your house' - it's the only one you'll ever have.


An Invitation To Move To The I Can Do It Street - Explore! Dream! Discover!

   As I sit here typing this editorial I am looking at a small piece of paper that is taped to the top edge of my computer desk. On that paper is written one of my favourite inspirational quotes. I look at it often, especially when I come to a decision that could end up being a major turning point in my life. 

The quote is:

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Learning Clinic Education Centre is well on its way to being everything I could have dreamed.

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

There is plenty of room on that street. 

And so, I throw out an invitation to all students to come along and be my neighbour! Make sure that as you work your way through the education system in search of meaning to your life you Explore! Dream! Discover! all there is in your path. Accept new challenges with all of your heart and give it your best. You may not always find success, but at least you won't find yourself living in the City of Regret.


Why Elephants Don't Run and Eagles Don't Fly 

   A number of years ago, while attending a circus with my children, I noticed a group of elephants in an open area. Each of these gigantic beasts was being held by only a small rope tied to their front leg. There were no chains and no fences around them. It was pretty obvious that the elephants could break away from their bonds at any time, but for some reason they did not. I went over to one of the trainers and asked why these beautiful, magnificent animals just stood there and made no attempt to get away.
   "Well," he said, "when they are very young and much smaller we use the same size rope to tie them and, at that age, it's enough to hold them. As they grow up, they are conditioned to believe they cannot break away. They think the rope can still hold them, so they never try to break free."
   It struck me as amazing that these strong, gigantic animals could at any time break free from their bonds but because they believed they could not, they were stuck right where they were.
   Every now and then I think back to the elephants and I wonder how many of us go through life hanging on to a belief that we cannot do something, simply because we failed at it once before? How many of us are being held back by old, outdated beliefs that no longer serve us? Have you avoided trying something new because you felt that you would fail? Worse, how many of us are being held back by someone else's limiting beliefs about our ability to succeed in a different venture?
   Particularly in starting or running a business, or in changing careers, we are often cautioned not to take risks, to play it safe, to keep the status quo, usually by well intentioned friends and family. How many of us have heard, "You can't do that?" These are the dream stealers who, due to their own limiting beliefs, attempt to discourage you from living your own dreams. The ‘dream-stealers’ are like the small ropes that hold the elephants. You can break away from them at any time, but you have been held by them for so long that you never try – just like the elephants.
   There is only one way to handle “dream-stealers”. You must ignore them at all cost.   Instead, find people who have accomplished what you want to accomplish, discover what they did and model their behavior. Remember back to times in your past when you were successful and use that experience to propel yourself forward.
   The next time you doubt your ability to accomplish your dreams, or you are challenging yourself with your own limiting beliefs, pull out the following story.

   Once upon a time, there was a large mountainside, where an eagle's nest rested. The eagle's nest contained four large eagle eggs. One day an earthquake rocked the mountain causing one of the eggs to roll down the mountain, to a chicken farm, located in the valley below. The chickens knew that they must protect and care for the eagle's egg, so an old hen volunteered to nurture and raise the large egg.
   One day, the egg hatched and a beautiful eagle was born. Sadly, however, the eagle was raised to be a chicken. Soon, the eagle believed he was nothing more than a chicken. The eagle loved his home and family, but his spirit cried out for more.
   While playing a game on the farm one day, the eagle looked to the skies above and noticed a group of mighty eagles soaring in the skies. "Oh," the eagle cried, "I wish I could soar like those birds." The chickens roared with laughter, "You cannot soar with those birds. You are a chicken and chickens do not soar."
   The eagle continued staring at his real family up above, dreaming that he could be with them. Each time the eagle would let his dreams be known, he was told it couldn't be done. That is what the eagle learned to believe. The eagle, after time, stopped dreaming and continued to live his life like a chicken. Finally, after a long life as a chicken, the eagle passed away.
   It has been said throughout history that what ever you believe, with conviction, you can achieve. Don't be like the poor elephant and go through your life stuck because of a limiting belief you were given or developed years ago. Don’t be like the eagle and go through your life listening to the words of a chicken. 

Take charge of your life and live it to the fullest. You deserve the best! You will become what you believe you are.  


Tell Mom And Dad I Lied...It's All My Fault

   One day I overheard two teenage girls in the mall complaining about their parents. One of them was upset because her parents wouldn’t let her go out on a date with a guy named Fred, who was three years older than her. The girls were making plans to trick her parents into thinking they were having a sleep-over.
   I was tempted to go over to the two girls and tell them the following story about a girl named Jenny:

   Jenny was happy about the end of the school year. It had turned out to be a really great year. She and her family had moved to a nice neighbourhood the previous summer and she had made a lot of new friends. As she unloaded her books on the last day of school, she could hardly hold back her excitement as she looked forward to her date that night.

   Finally, after a whole year, the star of the school hockey team had asked her out, but since her parents felt she was too young for him, she had to tell them a little lie. Instead of telling them about her date, she had asked them if she could spend the night with her girlfriends at a sleep-over. Her parents reluctantly agreed

   The party was great, and everything was going super until her date, Jeff, who was already half drunk, began smoking some "joints" that a friend had brought over. He then convinced her to go for a "little ride" with him to "Look Out Point". Jenny couldn’t refuse and risk being embarrassed in front of the crowd, so she went along. After they arrived at the ‘Point’, Jeff began to get a little too fresh and Jenny shoved him away, demanding to be taken home. She thought, "Perhaps my parents were right...maybe I am too young. How stupid am I?

   Angrily, Jeff cranked up the engine and floored the gas. In seconds they were going too fast. Jenny begged him to slow down, but he just went faster as they neared town. Then all of a sudden, she saw a big flash and knew they were going to crash.

   She felt someone move her from the twisted wreck and heard, "Call an ambulance! These kids are in trouble."

   She heard a few more voices and realized that two cars were involved. She wondered if Jeff was alive.

   When she woke in the hospital she was told that she’d been involved in a pretty bad accident.

   The voices echoed inside her head when they told her that Jeff was dead. They said, "Jenny, we’ve done all we can do, but it looks as if we’ll lose you too.”

   "But the people in the other car?" Jenny cried.

   "We’re sorry, Jenny, but they also died."

   Jenny prayed. "God, forgive me for what I’ve done. I only wanted to have one night of fun. Tell those people’s family I am so sorry. I only wish I could bring their families back to them."

   "Tell Mom and Dad I lied, and that it’s my fault so many people have died," Jenny begged the nurse. "Oh, please, won’t you tell them that for me?"

   The nurse just stood motionless, looking sadly at Jenny, not saying a word. She took Jenny’s hand with tears in her eyes and a few moments later, Jenny died.

   A man who was standing nearby asked the nurse, "Why didn’t you agree to give that girl her last request?"

   She looked at the man with sad eyes and said, "Because the people in the other car were her Mom and Dad."


   Night-after-night, teenagers everywhere are facing tough decisions about dating, drinking, drugs, and peer pressure.
   If you feel as if you might be the girl I overheard in the mall, I would advise you to go straight to your parents, give them a big hug and thank them for caring. There will be plenty of other "Fred’s" in your life. There will also be plenty of other parties to go to. Invite your girlfriend over to your house for the sleep-over, and ask your parents to join the two of you to watch a movie or play some cards. Make this a special night for your parents too, and always remember that some decisions in life can change your direction for ever. This may be one of them.
   If you know any young person who may be facing the same kind of pressure that the girl in the mall and Jenny faced in this story, please give them a copy of this story before it is too late.


The Golden Windows

Because of the 28 years I spent as a classroom teacher, I always enjoy getting into the schools where I can talk to young boys and girls who have so many questions about the exciting, yet unpredictable future that lies ahead of them.
   One boy I met recently spoke about how he felt about living in our little town of Valley East. “Sudbury is such a terrible place to grow up. I can’t wait to move away from this dump and live in Southern Ontario . Everything is big and modern down there. Life must be wonderful in the big city."
   I sat down with the young lad and told him that I understood how he felt. “
What you are feeling is quite normal. Even adults often think that things would be better in other circumstances. We are always looking for better jobs, better houses, better places to vacation, etc. A lot of people think that Sudbury is a dump, and not a place where they want to spend the rest of their life.”
   I then told him a little story called, “The Golden Windows”.
hillsides,landscapes,nature,sceneries,sunrises   There was once a young boy living on a farm which seemed like it was so far away from everywhere. He needed to get up before sunrise every morning to start his chores and then go out again later to do the evening ones. During sunrise he would take a break and climb up on the fence so in the distance he could see the house with golden windows. He thought how great it would be to live there and his mind would wander to imagine the modern equipment and appliances that might exist in the house.
   "If they can afford golden windows, then they must have other nice things too." He promised himself that some day he would go there and see this wonderful place for himself.
   Then one morning his father told him to stay home and his father would do the chores. Knowing that this was his chance, he packed a sandwich and headed across the field towards the house with the golden windows.
   As the afternoon went on, he began to realize how he misjudged the distance, but something else was also very wrong. As he approached the house, he saw no golden windows, but instead a place with a broken down fence. He went to the tattered screen door and knocked. A boy very close to his own age opened the door.
   He asked him if he has seen the house with the golden windows. The boy said, "Sure, I know." and invited him to sit on the porch. As he sat there, he looked back from where he just came where the sunset turned the windows on his own home to Gold.

   And so, I said to the young boy I was speaking to that day, and I say to all of my readers, regardless of your age or personal circumstance, what appears in life to be "golden" is sometimes just an illusion. You may not realize it, but there are a lot of things about living in the Sudbury area, and Valley East in particular, that people in other places would love. To them, you are the lucky ones. You have everything they are looking for - all you have to do is look at things the right way.
   In the story, the first boy saw the sun reflecting on the distant windows each morning. To him, that was the place where all the riches lie. To the other boy, who saw the sun reflecting on the first boy’s windows as the sun set in the evening that was where the riches must surely lie. It’s all a matter of perception.
   I told the young boy that he will soon have his chance to discover for himself what lies outside this region. However, all I asked of him was that he would every once in a while look back to where he was coming from and see the golden windows that we have right here in his old home town of Valley East .


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

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

The father, who was a chef, took his daughter into the kitchen. He filled three pots with water and placed them each on a stove element. Soon all three pots came to a boil. In one pot he placed carrots. In the other he placed eggs, and in the last pot he placed ground coffee beans. He let them sit and boil without saying a word. 

The daughter sat impatiently, wondering what he was trying to do. She had approached him with her problems and all he could do was think about cooking. In a half hour he walked over to the stove and turned off the elements. He pulled the carrots out and placed them in a bowl. He pulled the eggs out and placed them in another bowl. Then he ladled the coffee out and placed the liquid in the third bowl.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rest assured that life will through you curves from time to time. No one ever gets a free ride in this world. And also be prepared to “hit the wall” several times in your life when it seems as if you will never reach a solution to your problems. 

When faced with seemingly insurmountable obstacles, remember three things: 

  1. God would never give you more adversity than you can handle; 

  2. Everything will be all right in the end, so if  everything is not all right, it’s not the end; and 

  3. Be like a coffee bean - when things are at their worst, you get better.  


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

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

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

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

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

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

Isn’t that the truth?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


You Can Never Recall A Word Once Spoken

Many times we, as flawed human beings, make a personal comment, or react to a situation in anger, only to wish we could take back our words or say what we really wanted to say in a different manner? 

Human beings are, by nature, confrontational animals. We like to get in the last word! We are quick to strike back with a negative comment when we are angry or when we are insulted! We don’t like to sit back and take criticism! Many times, our verbal attacks make us feel good for the moment, but then we feel a sense of remorse and regret afterwards when we realize that what we actually said may have inflicted great pain on those around us. Consider the valuable lesson about life a father taught his son in this little story and see if there is a lesson for all of us.

construction,hammers,hand tools,hardware,households,industry,nails,tools,walls "There once was a little boy who had a bad temper. His father gave him a bag of nails and told him that every time he lost his temper, he must hammer a nail into the back of the fence. The first day the boy had driven 37 nails into the fence. Over the next few weeks, as he learned to control his anger, the number of nails hammered daily gradually dwindled down. He discovered it was easier to hold his temper than to drive those nails into the fence.

Finally, the day came when the boy didn’t lose his temper at all. He told his father about it and the father suggested that the boy now pull out one nail for each day that he was able to hold his temper. The days passed and the young boy was finally able to tell his father that all the nails were gone. The father took his son by the hand and led him to the fence. He said, "You have done well, my son, but look at the holes in the fence. The fence will never be the same. When you say things in anger, they leave a scar just like this one. You can put a knife in a man and draw it out. It won’t matter how many times you say I’m sorry, the wound is still there. A verbal wound is as bad as a physical one."

Remember the lesson that the young boy learned. "It won’t matter how many times you say I’m sorry, the wound is still there. A verbal wound is as bad as a physical one."

This is a lesson that must be learned by children and adults alike. The very people we hurt the most are usually the people closest to us. So next time you find yourself about to react with a verbal attack on someone you love, or someone you work with, remember that words, once allowed to escape can never be recalled. Make sure that what you say will not leave a wound for life.  


Go With The Flow

One of the things you learn as you are going through the various stages of life is that no matter what you are involved in, life has a way of throwing obstacles at you. 

Just when we start to get comfortable with a person, a place or a situation, something comes along to change it. A friend moves away. A child graduates and takes a job in another city or gets married. Unexpected expenses arise which force you to use savings that were set aside for a vacation. Or you get laid off from work.

Our ability to cope with change and disruption determines, to a great degree, our peace, happiness and contentment in life. But how do we develop this ability to cope with change? How do we help children learn this skill?

Philosophers have considered this question for centuries. According to the author of the Book of Ecclesiastes, comfort can be found in remembering that "to every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven." A friend of mine once stated that in order to work for the government, "survivability depends upon adaptability". I recently watched a show on television where a California surfer summed up the answer to life’s problems in four simple words: "Go with the flow."

The Californian explained, "It’s like surfing. You can’t organize the ocean. Waves just happen. You ride them where they take you, then you paddle back out there and catch the next one. Sure, you’re always hoping for the perfect wave, but mostly you just take them the way they come."

Perhaps the surfer has the answer we have been looking for. 

Life is nothing more than a series of events - both good and bad. No matter how good your organizational skills or how well you have planned for all eventualities, there will always be life-influencing factors over which you have no control. The truly successful person expects the unexpected, and is prepared to make adjustments should the need arise, as it almost always does.

That doesn’t mean you don’t keep trying to make your plans and dreams come true. It just means that when things don’t go according to plan, you just work around them and then move on. As the surfer said, "You ride them where they take you, then you paddle back out there and catch the next one."

What we must all realize is that some obstacles are easier to take than others. Missing a baseball game because of rain is easier to take than the sudden death of a family member. But the principle is the same. "You ride the wave where it takes you, then you paddle back out there and catch the next wave, always searching for the perfect ride." In other words, you work around the obstacle the best you can and then you move on with your life.

People have often commented on my ability to remain calm under difficult circumstances. I merely tell them that the secret is to keep your planning to a minimum. If I have to get to Sudbury, I will plan on taking the shortest route along Hwy 69N. But, if for some reason I am forced to take a detour through Garson or Rayside-Balfour, I have learned to simply enjoy the ride. I will eventually get to . It may take a little longer, and the road may be a little bumpier, but I will get there. I have also learned over the years that usually when I am forced to take a detour, I encounter some very worthwhile life-experiences along the way that I would have missed had it not been for taking the detour. As weird as it sounds, I actually look forward to the unexpected. It’s like opening a Christmas present - you never know what you are going to find.

So, as a student at the beginning of your exciting journey of life, let me advise you not to fear change, but rather learn to cope with it by enjoying the ride and then moving on with life. 

Go with the flow!  


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

  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.

   If you ever get down on yourself, think about the following story:

academic,artists,boys,children,classes,courses,easels,education,kids,males,paintbrushes,painters,painting,people,persons,students   “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, we are reminded almost every day 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.


Look To Your Weaknesses To Discover Your Strengths
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 judgment 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.
If You Pick Moss, Don’t Expect Blueberry Pie  

   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!”  


It’s Time For All Graduates To Notice The River

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.”  


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

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

   Isn’t this so true? 

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

   All too often, it takes TIME for us to understand how great that Love really was.



“The Mystery of Life…A Lot of Questions With No Answers…”  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

   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.


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

   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.  


Living A Life That Matters Is All About Being Nice

    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.


“Giving Up The Good Now For A Better Future”

   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 ten; it’s twelve! 

   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.


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

   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 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.”  


Break Through The Terror Barrier and Set Yourself Free

   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.


Learn To Recognize Opportunities That Are Right Before Your Eyes

One of my favourite stories of all time demonstrates our inability to recognize opportunity when it is right under our eyes. I know you will see the humour in this story, but I also hope you get the message.

The Mississippi River was flooding its banks and the waters were rising around Clem’s house. The waters had gotten to the level of the front porch where Clem was standing. A man in a rowboat came by and called to Clem, "Hop in and I’ll take you to high ground."

Clem replied, "No, my God will save me!"

The river continued to rise to the second story windows and Clem, looking out, saw a powerboat come up. The man in the powerboat called to Clem, "Hop in and I’ll take you to high ground."

Clem replied, "No, my God will save me!"

The river had now risen to the roof of the house. Clem was sitting on the ridge at the top of the house, with the waters swirling around his feet. He saw a helicopter fly over and the people inside yelled over a bull horn, "Grab the rope and climb in and we’ll take you to high ground."

Clem replied, "No, my God will save me!"

The river continued to rise and finally it engulfed the house and Clem was drowned. The next thing he knew, Clem was standing before his God. In anger, he asked God, "I put my trust in you. Why have you forsake me?"

And his God replied, "What more do you want from me? I sent you a rowboat, a powerboat and a helicopter!"


Never Be Too Quick To Judge Another Human Being

A lady in a faded gingham dress and her husband, dressed in a homespun threadbare suit, stepped off the train in Boston, and walked timidly without an appointment into the president of Harvard's outer office. The secretary could tell in a moment that such backwoods, country hicks had no business at Harvard and probably didn't even deserve to be in Cambridge.

She frowned. "We want to see the president," the man said softly. "He'll be busy all day," the secretary snapped. "We'll wait," the lady replied. For hours, the secretary ignored them, hoping that the couple would finally become discouraged and go away.

They didn't. And the secretary grew frustrated and finally decided to disturb the president, even though it was a chore she always regretted to do. "Maybe if they just see you for a few minutes, they'll leave," she told him.

And he sighed in exasperation and nodded. Someone of his importance obviously didn't have the time to spend with them, but he detested gingham dresses and homespun suits cluttering up his outer office. The president, stern-faced with dignity, strutted toward the couple. The lady told him, "We had a son that attended Harvard for one year. He loved Harvard. He was happy here. But about a year ago, he was accidentally killed. And my husband and I would like to erect a memorial to him, somewhere on campus."

The president wasn't touched, he was shocked. "Madam," he said gruffly. "We can't put up a statue for every person who attended Harvard and died. If we did, this place would look like a cemetery". "Oh, no," the lady explained quickly. "We don't want to erect a statue.

We thought we would like to give a building to Harvard." The president rolled his eyes. He glanced at the gingham dress and homespun suit, then exclaimed, "A building! Do you have any earthly idea how much a building costs? We have over seven and a half million dollars in the physical plant at Harvard." For a moment the lady was silent. The president was pleased. He could get rid of them now. And the lady turned to her husband and said quietly, "Is that all it costs to start a University? Why don't we just start our own?" Her husband nodded. The president's face wilted in confusion and bewilderment. And Mr. and Mrs. Leland Stanford walked away, traveling to Palo Alto, California where they established the University that bears their name, a memorial to a son that Harvard no longer cared about.

"You can easily judge the character of others by how they treat those who can do nothing for them or to them." Malcolm Forbes


Education & Career Planning Is One of the Most Important Responsibilities of Family Managers

   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”.
   You must find time to visit your child's school once in a while. 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!



They say that every new day is another opportunity to make significant changes in our life. 

As we search for these significant changes, let us all take a few moments to consider the following story. Perhaps the answer lies therein.

There once lived a rich man who couldn’t understand why he was unhappy. He had wealth beyond imagination, but was always in a miserable mood. He lived in a huge mansion by himself. One Christmas Eve he visited a wise old man and confided in him about his dilemma. The wise old man took him to a window.

"Look out there," he said.

The rich man looked out into the street.

"What do you see?", the wise old man asked.

"I see men and women and little children," answered the rich man.

Then the wise old man took the rich man to a mirror.

"What do you see now?" he asked.

"I see myself," the rich man answered.

Then the wise old man explained, "Behold, both the window and the mirror are made of glass. But the glass of the mirror is covered with silver. No sooner is silver added than you cease to see others and see only yourself."

The rich man left the wise old man and drove to his only sister’s house for his annual Christmas Eve visit to deliver some very expensive gifts that he had purchased for her family. It was the only day of the year he saw his sister and he usually just stayed long enough to drop off the presents and wish them a Merry Christmas.

When he arrived at the door, he was warmly greeted by his sister, her husband, and their five year old daughter. His sister and her husband were of modest means, living in a small apartment, yet they were always happy. The rich man was still confused from the advice given by the wise old man.

It was just then that the little girl ran into the living room and returned to give her rich uncle a present. The look in her eyes would have one believe that it was something very precious. When the rich man opened up the package, it was an angel pasted on a pie plate. It mattered not that the angel looked like a clown, nor that it was pasted on crooked. What mattered is that the little girl had given the rich man something that all the money in the world couldn’t buy. For the first time that he could remember, there were tears in his eyes, as the little girl gave him a big hug and asked him to stay for a while to play with her.

The rich man’s sister and her husband were both surprised and delighted when the man accepted the little girl’s invitation. It was the first time he had ever entered the apartment, although he was often asked. When he left several hours later, he realized that the little girl had given him one of life’s finest gifts. When she kissed him good bye and told him that this was the best Christmas she ever had, he suddenly understood what the wise old man was trying to tell him earlier in the day.

As he drove home that evening the stars in the sky seemed to be shining a little bit brighter. From that day onward, the rich man stopped spending time looking in mirrors, and instead, looked through every window he could find. He discovered that real joy comes not from accumulating riches or hoarding material things, but from doing something worthwhile for others. The little five-year old girl showed him that all the expensive presents in the world were not as important to her as spending a few hours playing with her uncle. The rich man never again felt unhappy! And he never again spent Christmas, Thanksgiving or birthdays alone.

This year, let us all take the time to look through windows so that we may truly see the things in this world that count. Let us all make a commitment to spend those precious moments with our loved ones as we discover the most precious gifts of all.


We’re Raising Children, Not Flowers. 

   One of my favourite days of the year 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.


Perhaps Your Childhood Dreams Of Happiness Have Come True Without You Knowing It

Regardless of how you look at it - we do not live in a very happy, satisfied society today. Look around you. Everywhere you look you see the strained faces of people rushing through the daily chores of life in a struggle to either get ahead or stay afloat. Personal debt levels are at an all-time high as people use their credit cards and borrow money to ‘buy their dreams’. Others are just scraping by, hoping to survive the next financial disaster.

What happened to our childhood dreams? You know the one where you lay on the cool grass looking at the clouds floating by, dreaming about how your life would be when you grew up.

Life can hardly be called a dream today. Certainly there are moments when we forget our problems and enjoy peaceful times with the ones we love, but then there are many others where we wish for that lottery win; that big gain in the stock market; or that big break which will allow you to buy the house and car of your dreams.

I heard a story one day about a boy who said to God, “I’ve been thinking, and I know what I want when I become a man.”

He proceeded to give God his list: to live in a big house with two Saint Bernards and a garden...marry a blue-eyed, tall, beautiful woman...have three sons - one who will be a doctor, one a scientist, and one a professional hockey player. He also wanted to be an adventurer who climbed tall mountains...and to drive a red Ferrari.

As it turned out, the boy hurt his knee one day while playing football. He no longer could climb trees, much less mountains. He married a beautiful and kind woman who was short with brown eyes. Because of his business, he lived in a city apartment, took cabs, and rode subways. He had three loving daughters, and they adopted a fluffy cat. One daughter became a nurse, another an artist, and the third a music teacher.

One morning the man awoke and remembered his boyhood dream. He became extremely depressed, so depressed that he became very ill. Close to death from a broken heart, he called out to God, “Remember when I was a boy and told You all the things I wanted? Why didn’t you give me those things?”

“I could have,” said God, “but I wanted to make you happy.”

Recognize that true happiness comes from accepting the life with which God has provided you. Happiness does not come from big homes and fancy cars. True happiness comes from your attitude towards your own unique situation in life and the loving people around you.

I remember when our first son was born. The lady in the bed beside my wife had just given birth to her first child as well... a beautiful, healthy baby girl. However, her husband was absolutely distraught. He wanted a son so badly that he wouldn’t even hold his daughter when he came to visit. I even went and found him a gown one evening and brought it to him, hoping that he might hold his marvellous daughter. He would have nothing to do with her. The mother was so depressed that she even asked my wife if they could trade her daughter for our son. Here was a time in this young couple’s life when they should have been so happy with their first born, and yet, because of their ‘dream’ of having a son, they couldn’t see the happiness.  I often wonder if one day she and her husband too will look up to God and ask why He didn’t make their dream come true? I wonder how many of us will also look up to God and ask why he didn’t make our dreams come true? Perhaps we will all be surprised when he answers, “Because I wanted to make you happy.”

Let’s not spend so much time longing for our childhood dreams that we miss out on the happiness that we have been given. When God tells us that he didn’t make the dreams come true because He wanted to make us happy, let’s hope we don’t have to hang our heads in regret because we were too blind to enjoy the happiness we were given in our life.  


Take Time To Read The Handwriting On The Wall

   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.


The Price of A Miracle...One Dollar and Eleven Cents

Every now and then we all run into problems in our life where we feel the only way out is through a miracle. Life is like that! It throws you a curve just when you least expect it and the challenge seems insurmountable. Usually, we manage to work our way through our problems and get on with our life. Often, however, we can’t explain just how we managed to overcome our trials and tribulations. For some of us, the answer actually comes in the form of  the miracle we were hoping for. 

I’m sure you will enjoy the story I found on the internet this week. It is a classic that I am sure many of you have read before, but it is one that I always love reading because it seems to have a lot of meaning in my life no matter when I come across it. The story speaks of one such miracle.

Tess was a precocious eight year old when she heard her Mom and Dad talking about her little brother, Andrew. All she knew was that he was very sick and they were completely our of money. They were moving to an apartment complex next month because Daddy didn’t have the money for the doctor bills and the house. Only a very costly surgery could save Andrew now and it was looking like there was no-one who would loan them the money.

Tess heard her Daddy say to her tearful mother, with whispered desperation, “Only a miracle can save him now.”

Tess went to her bedroom and pulled a glass jelly jar from its hiding place in the closet. She poured all the change out on the floor and counted it carefully. She then placed the coins back in the jar and slipped out the back door, making her way six blocks to the nearest drug store.

She waited patiently for the pharmacist to give her some attention but he was too busy at this moment. Tess twisted her feet to make a scuffing noise. Nothing! She cleared her throat with the most disgusting sound she could muster. No good.

Finally, she took a quarter from her jar and banged it on the glass counter. That did it!

“And what do you want?” the pharmacist asked in an annoyed tone of voice. “I’m busy talking to my brother from Chicago whom I haven’t seen in ages.”

“Well, I want to talk to you about my brother,” Tess answered back in the same annoyed tone. “He’s really, really sick...and I want to buy a miracle.”

“I beg your pardon?” said the pharmacist.

“His name is Andrew and he has something bad growing inside his head and my Daddy says only a miracle can save him now. So how much does a miracle cost?”

“We don’t sell miracles here, little girl. I’m sorry I can’t help you,” the pharmacist said, softening a little.

“Listen, I have the money to pay for it. If it isn’t enough, I will get the rest. Just tell me how much it costs,” pleaded Tess.

The pharmacist’s brother was a well dressed man. He stooped down and asked the little girl, “What kind of a miracle does your brother need?”

“I don’t know,” Tess replied with her eyes welling up. “I just know he’s really sick and Mommy says he needs an operation. But my Daddy can’t pay for it, so I want to use my money.”

“How much do you have?” asked the man from Chicago .

“One dollar and eleven cents,” Tess answered barely audibly. “And it’s all the money I have, but I can get some more if I need to.”

“Well, what a coincidence,” smiled the man. “A dollar and eleven cents...the exact price of a miracle for little brothers.” He took the money in one hand and with the other hand he grasped her mitten and said, “Take me to where you live. I want to see your brother and meet your parents. Let’s see if I have the kind of miracle you need.”

That well dressed man was Dr. Carlton Armstrong, a surgeon, specializing in neuro-surgery. The operation was completed without charge and it wasn’t long until Andrew was home again and doing well. Mom and Dad were happily talking about the chain of events that had led them to this place.”

“That surgery,” her Mom whispered. “Was a real miracle. I wonder how much it would have cost?”

Tess smiled. She knew exactly how much a miracle dollar and eleven the faith of a little child.

We all experience hardships in life. But we also experience miracles. The trouble is that we often fail to recognize the miracles that come our way as we focus only on our problems. If we could only have the faith of a little child, and if we could only learn to recognize the miracles that occur in our life. Miracles need not be major earth shattering events. Miracles may actually be of the one dollar and eleven cent variety. But no matter what the cost, you can rest assured that miracles do happen, and when they come, they make a real difference in your life.


The People Who Truly Love You Will Always Be There For You In Times Of Need

   I was reading a beautiful story in the Sudbury Star recently about the first baby born in the City of Greater Sudbury in 2007.  Connor Ethan Dufour was born at 4:02 a.m. on the morning of January 1. The 7 lb. 7 oz. bundle of joy is the first child of two very proud Val Caron residents, Angela Tanguay and Barry Dufour.

   Barry describes the year 2006 as one of the best years of his life, and the couple is now looking forward to even greater things in 2007 as they begin their new role as parents. "We were engaged in February. Then Angie got pregnant in March. I was hired at INCO in October. And to top it all off, we have the New Year’s Baby!”
   Angela and Barry are sitting on top of the world right now, and nothing is going to prevent them from enjoying the precious moments to come with their new son.
   I’m sure many of my readers feel the same about their life right now. Things are likely going very well and you are riding an “emotional high”.

   However, I am also certain that many of you are currently experiencing some disappointments and challenges in your life. For many of you, 2006 is a year, either in total or in part, you might like to forget, and 2007 may not be starting off much better.

   Whenever I am faced with disappointment in my own life I try to remember two very important principles that I have learned over my many years of personal experience.
   The first is that “If you carry on, one day something good will happen. And you’ll realize that it wouldn’t have happened if not for that previous disappointment.”
   The second is that, “No matter how difficult the situation in which you find yourself, and no matter how hopeless it seems in the beginning, you are never given anything in life that you are not capable of handling.”
   As we go through our journey of life everyone, and I mean everyone experiences all sorts of major setbacks. These include loss of loved ones; financial problems; relationship difficulties; family problems; work problems; health problems; indeed it seems as if we spend most of our life overcoming difficulties and challenges.
   We all have those days and periods of our life when we sit back and wonder how we will ever survive. Believe me when I say that WE ALL HAVE THOSE FEELINGS from time to time. YOU ARE NOT ALONE if you are experiencing one of the “emotional lows” in your life. And it won’t be the last time either. Life has its ups and downs. Angela and Barry are certainly enjoying one of the “high points” of their life right now. But I’m sure they have had low points before and undoubtedly they will have low points again. However, they will always remember this time of their life as one of the best, and they will use these precious memories to help them get over the any challenges they face in the future.
   Whenever I am at one of the low points in my life, I always think about the two principles mentioned above. By having faith that something good will come, and that I am never given anything that I can’t handle, I have found that the storm does indeed subside and the sun does shine once again.

   Moreover, after I have gone through one of those difficult periods, I find that I’ve rediscovered those things in life that I truly value. I learn to value the relationships I have with the people around me far more than I value the material possessions that I have collected. By relying on the support of my loved ones to get through tough times, the good that comes out of the challenges I am facing is more often than not a strengthening of those bonds of love. I learn to value life itself, and the people who are most important to me – the very people I may have taken for granted.

   It seems as if the challenges we are given from time to time are wake up calls to help us see ourselves for who we really are and to force us to refocus our priorities. So the next time you are faced with a major difficulty in your life, remember the two principles and look around for the people who truly love you. They will be there for you. You will discover that something good will happen and that you do have the strength to carry on, no matter how bad things may appear.



We live in a time when our life can change suddenly and without warning. This is the lottery generation when a simple piece of paper can make you rich and launch you into a completely different social status. This is the stock market generation when a jump in stock value followed by quick sale can make you a millionaire or put you in the poor house overnight. This is also generation where people live in fear of catastrophe every time they drive a car, walk down a street at night, go to work or merely go to sleep at night in the privacy of their own home. Change often comes suddenly and without warning.

Too often I have spoken to people who were distraught at the loss of a loved one and who were beating themselves up for not spending more time with them in the final days before their death. They spend agonizing days, weeks and sometimes years in what I call the "If I knew it would be the last time.." depression.

Many years ago I decided that I would adopt the "What if this is the last time..." philosophy of life. I have discovered that it leaves me at peace with the world more often and provides me with a healthy perspective on life. It is difficult at times to maintain this philosophy, and every so often I find myself regretting some action or comment that I have made. At those times I say to myself, "What if this is the last time I ever see that person? Is that how I want to be remembered, or how I want to remember him/her?"

I invite my readers to consider adopting this philosophy, even for a short trial period. See if it changes the way you look at life.

When you tuck your child in tonight, ask yourself what you would do if you knew this might be the last time you ever saw your child fall asleep. Would you give him/her an extra hug? Would you take a few minutes to lie beside your child? Would you be in such a hurry to get back to the television set?

When you leave for work in the morning, if you knew this might be the last time you ever said good-bye, would you get up a few minutes earlier so that you would have time to say good-bye to everyone and wish them all the best for the day? Would you say, "I love you" one extra time to your spouse? Would you get upset because your favourite shirt wasn’t ironed? Would you smile and wave as you were pulling out of the driveway?

When you have an argument or disagreement with a friend, a co-worker, or a loved one, if you knew this might be the last time you would see that person, would you make an extra effort to solve the problem before you left? Would you apologize for your actions or comments before you left? Would you roll over and go to sleep knowing that you have upset your spouse?

You must always remember that tomorrow is not promised to anyone. Today may be the last day of your life or the last day in the life of a loved one. You may never get a second chance to say "I love you"; to spend time with your children; to spend time with your spouse; or to spend time with your parents.

So if you are waiting until tomorrow to do something special for a loved one, why not do it today? If you want to say you are sorry for something you did, why not do it today? If you have been trying to find time to make that phone call or write that letter, why not do it today? For if tomorrow never comes, you will surely regret that you didn’t take the extra time to grant to someone, what may have turned out to be their last wish.  


Attitude Is The Key To Dealing With Family Stress

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Attitude Is The Key To Dealing With Family Stress

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


How Many Potatoes Are You Carrying Around?

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

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

   Yes, these are definitely the words one would expect to be spoken by ‘The Unhappiest Man Who Ever Lived”. Do you know him? Have you ever met him?

   To further illustrate the message of this wonderful story, let me share with you another short passage I came across recently. The author of this story is unknown, but I am sure each of us in our own small way can identify with the moral.

The story is entitled, ‘Are Your Potatoes Heavy?’

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

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

   It is too easy to blame others for our problems. When this becomes a personal habit, we tend to blame others for all of our anger, frustration, depression, stress and unhappiness. If something is missing, someone else must have moved it; if your marriage did not work out, it was your spouse’s fault; if you lose your job, it was your employer who was to blame; and so on.

   Personal happiness and peace cannot be achieved as long as you are blaming others. In order to be at peace with yourself, you must accept responsibility for your own actions as well as for your reactions to others around you. To carry on the hatred is like carrying around a bag of potatoes. Until you forgive the person and get rid of the potato, it will be a burden on your life and will follow you wherever you go. Forgiving the person who has done you wrong is not so much a gift to that person, but a gift to yourself so that you can rid yourself of this heavy burden and not allow it to consume so much of your life. You can apply this philosophy to virtually all situations in which you find yourself unable to forgive another person.

   Blaming others is very stressful and takes a tremendous amount of mental energy. It also leaves you powerless over your own life in that you soon feel that your own happiness is controlled by the actions of others. When you stop blaming others, you will regain control of your personal power and take charge of your own happiness. You will also find that life is much more fun when you stop blaming others and forgive them for what they have done.

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


Wasted The Whole Day Fishing With Jimmy: Didn't Catch A Thing
   The other day I had a moment of inspiration and decided to clean out the basement. I knew that there was a lot of junk that was just taking up space and it was time to get rid of a few things. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do it while you can.


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

  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.  


The One Thing Everyone Needs In Life

   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.”


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

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.  


“I Want To Do It Myself”

      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.


There Is Nothing Ordinary About An Ordinary Day

   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.


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

   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.


“Uncovering The Secret”

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


“The Moments That Stand Out In Your Life…” 

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

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

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

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

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


Education Week Is An Important Week For "Family Managers

   Education Week 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!


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

   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.



  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.

We Are All Exactly Where We Are Supposed To Be” 
Have you ever had too much time on your hands and drifted into that "I wonder what would have happened if.." dream land? You know the place I mean. Where you get to thinking, I wonder what would have happened if I took that job in Toronto? I wonder what would have happened if I had enough money to buy that new house on the lake? I wonder what would have happened if I had waited until I was older to get married?

If you live and breathe and have an ounce of honesty in your body, you will admit that you too have drifted into the "I wonder what would have happened..." state from time to time.

During the Christmas holidays I had the opportunity to watch one of my favourite classics of all time, ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’, starring Jimmy Stewart. I also saw three other movies: Family Man (Nicolas Cage), Frequency (David Quaid), and Destiny (James Belushi). Each of these movies centres around the main character being taken back in time where he is given an opportunity to make a ‘different choice’ which results in his entire life being altered. He then goes through the nightmare of living for a while in the new life until he realizes that his real life wasn’t as bad as he thought.

I don’t know exactly why movies like this appeal so much to me, but I do know that I feel immensely satisfied and uplifted each time I watch one. Perhaps it is because it makes me realize that, in spite of all the troubles I think I have in my life, there is so, so much to be thankful for that I wouldn’t trade it for anything. And yet, it is quite frightening to think back to some of those life-changing choices that I have made in the past and realize that if I had made a different choice, nothing in my life would be the same and all of the people I hold dear to my heart would vanish.

When I was in Teachers’ College in 1973, I had a chance to take a job in Toronto, but I made one final attempt at convincing the Sudbury Board to give me a contact. Why did I write that one final letter? What made me sit down and draft a letter that I thought would just be thrown in the garbage? Where would I be today if I had started my career in Toronto?

Back on a Sunday afternoon in January 1974, my wife dragged me away from the Super Bowl game to look at a house in Val Therese. I grew up in Lively and had never set foot in Val Caron or Hanmer, let alone given any thought to living there. Twenty-seven years later, here we are, still in the same house that I missed a Super Bowl game for - the house where we raised a family and where we fully intend to continue to build memories until the end of our time on earth. What if I would have watched the game instead of gone to look at the house? What if we would have bought a house in Lively or Sudbury instead of Valley East?

Whenever I think about such things it sends a shiver up and down my body. I look back on all of the wonderful memories and the fabulous people I have met over the years, and it leaves me with a hollow feeling when I consider that my life may very well have missed those memories and people. I think of all the people I have touched along the way and I realize that their lives may also have been changed in some significant way if I had not entered into their life. It is a bit frightening to know that my life and the lives of so many others may have been so different if I hadn’t taken 30 minutes out of my day to write a letter to the School Board in 1973; or if I had felt too comfortable sitting in front of the television drinking beer and watching the super bowl game to drive all the way to Val Therese to look at a house?

Then my mind begins to wander to other times in my life when choices were made without much thought. What would my life have been like if I had not hitch-hiked to Creighton that cold winter night in 1968 to watch the hockey game at the Creighton club. The night when one of my friends introduced me to a girl by the name of Valerie Starcevic who, four short years later would walk down the aisle with me to take my name as hers, and eventually drag me away from a Super Bowl game to look at a house in Val Therese? What if that car hadn’t stopped that cold winter night to pick me up at precisely the moment when I was about to give up on any chance of getting a ride to Creighton? What if the car had gone on by and I had turned back to go home to watch the hockey game?

Life is a series of choices. Every choice you make may well change the direction your life will take. And yet, when we make those choices, we seldom take into consideration the long-term impact that they may have. Why we make the choices we do may not always be clear at the time. They may never be clear, and I am sure you must also shake your head at some of your choices and wonder how in the name of God you made some of the decisions you did make.

One thing I am becoming more sure of as I get older, is that life generally unfolds for one reason.. "it was meant to be!"

I have learned that there is no use trying to rationalize or make sense out of what life brings you. It is best to make all of your decisions based on the conditions of the day and on what you feel in your heart is right, and then go forward with the inner confidence that you will always be able to handle the challenges that come forth. Always be certain that every decision, as long as you feel it is the right one for you, will bring you happiness that would not have occurred if you had decided differently. And above all, remember that you can never go back and undecide! You can only go forward.

So as we enter a new year, let us go forth to enjoy everything that life offers us with the knowledge that "it was meant to be"! And if you need to be convinced that your life is wonderful, just take the time to watch one of the movies.


Never Give Up On The People You Love” 
Like any good mother, when Karen found out that another baby was on the way, she did what she could to help her 3-year old son, Michael, prepare for a new sibling. They find out that the new baby is going to be a girl, and day after day, night after night, Michael sings to his sister in Mommy's tummy.

The pregnancy progresses normally for Karen, an active member of the Panther Creek United Methodist Church in Morristown,Tennessee. Then the labor pains come. Every five minutes every minute. But complications arise during delivery. Hours of labor. Would a C-section be required?

Finally, Michael's little sister is born. But she is in serious condition. With siren howling in the night, the ambulance rushes the infant to the neonatal intensive care unit at St. Mary's Hospital, Knoxville, Tennessee. The days inch by. The little girl gets worse. The pediatric specialist tells the parents, "There is very little hope. Be prepared for the worst."

Karen and her husband contact a local cemetery about a burial plot. They have fixed up a special room in their home for the new baby - now they plan a funeral.

Michael, keeps begging his parents to let him see his sister, "I want to sing to her," he says.

Week two in intensive care. It looks as if a funeral will come before the week is over. Michael keeps nagging about singing to his sister, but kids are never allowed in Intensive Care. But Karen makes up her mind. She will take Michael whether they like it or not. If he doesn't see his sister now, he may never see her alive.

She dresses him in an oversized scrub suit and marches him into ICU. He looks like a walking laundry basket, but the head nurse recognizes him as a child and bellows, "Get that kid out of here now! No children are allowed.

The mother rises up strong in Karen, and the usually mild-mannered lady glares steel-eyed into the head nurse's face, her lips a firm line. "He is not leaving until he sings to his sister!" Karen tows Michael to his sister's bedside. He gazes at the tiny infant losing the battle to live. And he begins to sing.

In the pure hearted voice of a 3-year-old, Michael sings: "You are my sunshine, my only sunshine, you make me happy when skies are gray --- "

Instantly the baby girl responds. The pulse rate becomes calm and steady.

Keep on singing, Michael.

"You never know, dear, how much I love you, Please don't take my sunshine away---"

The ragged, strained breathing becomes as smooth as a kitten's purr. Keep on singing, Michael.

"The other night, dear, as I lay sleeping, I dreamed I held you in my arms..." Michael's little sister relaxes as rest, healing rest, seems to sweep over her. Keep on singing, Michael. Tears conquer the face of the bossy head nurse. Karen glows.

"You are my sunshine, my only sunshine. Please don't, take my sunshine away."

Funeral plans are scrapped. The next, day-the very next day-the little girl is well enough to go home!

Woman's Day magazine called it "the miracle of a brother's song." The medical staff just called it a miracle.

Karen called it a miracle of God's love!




The Learning Clinic is The Private Practice of
Robert Kirwan, B.A. (Math), M.A. (Education), OCT
4456 Noel Crescent, Val Therese, ON P3P 1S8
Phone: (705) 969-7215    Email:

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