It gives me great pleasure to share with you some of my favourite New Year's stories. The following editorials are intended to provide you with some reflective food for thought about your current situation and where you would like to be a year from now. These stories will have as much impact on your life as you are willing to allow, and they are just as appropriate on July 1 as on January 1. As I leave you to enjoy the stories, I leave you with one of my favourite quotes of all time:

"If you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always got." 

Therefore, if you are not satisfied with the status quo; if things are not working out exactly as you wish, then don't expect to be any further ahead a year from now unless you are willing to do something differently.

Good luck!

Robert Kirwan

Don’t Make Any New Year’s Resolutions This Year! Make Some New Year’s Realizations!
Most of us will be busy trying to make some meaningful New Year’s Resolutions at the beginning of the year, all of which are designed to help us improve our life and motivate us to greater things during the next 12 months. 

This year however, I ask you to do something a bit different. Instead of coming up with New Year’s Resolutions, I want you to come up with New Year’s Realizations.

I thank Simon Guillet of Guilletville for sending me an article he received over the email from a friend. As you read the following, which is taken from Simon’s submission along with another I already had on file, see if you can make any ‘New Year’s Realizations’ about your own life.

Even though I clutch my blanket and growl when the alarm rings, I realize that I can hear. There are many who are deaf.

Even though I keep my eyes closed against the morning light, I realize I can see. There are many who are blind.

Even though I huddle in my bed and put off rising, I realize that I have the strength to rise. There are many who are bedridden.

Even though the first hour of my day is hectic, when socks are lost, toast is burned, tempers are short and the children are loud, I realize that I have a family. There are many who are lonely.

Even though the breakfast table never looks like the pictures in magazines and the menu is at times unbalanced, I realize that we have food to eat. There are many who are hungry.

Even though the routine of my job is often monotonous, I realize I have the opportunity to work. There are many who have no job.

Even though I have a teenager who is not doing dishes but is watching TV, I realize he/she is at home. There are many who are out on the streets.

Even though I grumble about the taxes I have to pay, I realize it means I have an income. There are many who do not.

Even though I have to clean up after a party, I realize it means I have been surrounded by friends. There are many who have no friends.

Even though my clothes fit a little too snug, I realize it means I have had enough to eat. There are many who go hungry every day.

Even though I complain about my lawn that needs mowing, my windows that need cleaning and my gutters that need fixing, I realize I have a home. There are many who are homeless.

Even though I complain a lot about the government, I realize I have the freedom of speech. There are many in this world who are afraid to express their opinion.

Even though I have a huge heating bill, I realize it means I am warm. There are many who cannot afford heat.

Even though the pile of laundry seems never ending, I realize I have clothes to wear. There are those who have very little clothing.

Even though it seems as if I often take my family members for granted, I realize how fortunate I am to have people around who love me despite my personal failings. There are those who never experience love.

We all have so much to be thankful for, but life is so hectic that we often fail to realize just what we do have. We are always wishing for something better. We are always trying to improve our lot in life. Perhaps if we just took the time to make some ‘New Year’s Realizations’ over the next couple of days, we will stop chasing rainbows for the pot of gold and discover that the real treasure is right here in front of us.

Have a Very Happy New Year!


What More Do You Want From Me?

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!"


It Was Meant 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.


If Tomorrow Never Comes

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.


Beyond The Silver Lining

This new year will be an 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 New Year’s Resolution to spend those precious moments with our loved ones as we discover the most precious gifts of all.


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!



A Man and His Dog

A man and his dog were walking along a road. The man was enjoying the scenery, when it suddenly occurred to him that he was dead. He remembered dying, and that his faithful dog had been dead for many years. He wondered where the road was leading them. After a while, they came to a high, white stone wall along one side of the road. It looked like fine marble. As he reached the wall, he saw a magnificent gate in the arch, and the street that led to the gate made from pure gold. He and the dog walked toward the gate, and as he got closer, he saw a man at a desk to one side.

When he was close enough, he called out, "Excuse me, where are we?"

"This is heaven, sir," the man answered.

"Wow! Would you happen to have some water? We have traveled far," the man said.

"Of course, sir. Come right in, and I'll have some ice water brought right up."

The man gestured, and the gate began to open.

"Can my friend," gesturing toward his dog, "come in, too?" the traveler asked.

"I'm sorry, sir, but we don't accept pets."

The man thought a moment, remembering all the years this dog remained loyal to him and then turned back toward the road and continued the way he had been going. After another long walk he came to a plain dirt road, which led through a farm gate that looked as if it had never been closed. There was no fence. As he approached the gate, he saw a man inside, leaning against a tree and reading a book.

"Excuse me!" he called to the reader. "Do you have any water? We have traveled far."

"Yes, sure, there's a faucet over there." The man pointed to a place that couldn't be seen from outside the gate. "Come on in and help yourself."

"How about my friend here?" the traveler gestured to his dog.

"There should be a bowl by the faucet; he is welcome to share."

They went through the gate, and sure enough, there was an old-fashioned faucet with a bowl beside it. The traveler filled the bowl and took a long drink himself, then he gave some to the dog. When they were full, he and the dog walked back toward the man who was standing by the tree waiting for them.

"What do you call this place?" the traveler asked.

"This is heaven," was the answer.

"Well, that's confusing," the traveler said. "The man down the road said that was heaven, too."

"Oh, you mean the place with the gold street and pearly gates? Nope. That's hell."

"Doesn't it make you mad for them to use your name like that?"

"No. We're just happy that they screen out the folks who'd leave their best friends behind in exchange for material things."


A Fascinating Story!

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


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