Kathleen's Thoughts

My Most Valued Award
8 April 2007

There are those times in life where we are, perhaps for the briefest of moments, recognized for achievements that we have accomplished.  Those may come from an employer for a particularly high level of production, or perhaps a single event of going above and beyond the call to fulfill the mission of the company.  Whatever it is, one can take pride from the fact that at least in one person's eye something was done that deserves recognition.  In my life I have received several awards for various things.  But one stands out in my mind as being one that I deeply cherish the most, one that left me understanding what is truly important in life.  I recall the day vividly.  It was sometime in the Spring of 1971.  The entire senior Seneca High School class was seated in the auditorium.  It was "Award's Day".  I was pretty much a B+ student and was not in the league of the class leaders.  I had no aspirations of receiving anything that day.  One by one, awards were handed out for levels of achievement in certain subjects or for club activities.  Many of the recipients one could most likely predict.  And then it was time for the Orchestra award.  I was a member of the orchestra for all of my high school years.  I played the clarinet, and only moved to first chair because those ahead of me, who were far more talented, had been previously graduated.  I was not an outstanding musician by any means.  And then the orchestra leader, on the stage of the auditorium, announced "The person who is going to receive this award will not think that they are going to get this, but this person really held the orchestra together and is deserving."  Well, I'm sure most in the audience was thinking that the award would be going to either a trumpet or sax player, both who were quite talented and were destined for professional careers.  And then the orchestra leader called . . . my name.  Yes, she was right, the last thing I would have thought that day was that I would have been the recipient of this award.  But what I realized was that, if nothing else, I showed up EVERY DAY and practiced.  The horn and sax player?  Well, they were "too good" to bother themselves with showing up half the time.  And yes, perhaps they did not need to practice.  But the orchestra is a team effort, and it relies on everyone's participation to be successful, to sound whole.  And so, what I took from this was the need, in life, to "show up every day".  Some days things don't go just as planned, and all sounds out of tune.  But these days help us understand when it all DOES sound right, when everything is in harmony.  And so I continue to move forward.  Am I happy every day?  No.  But every day is worth living, and every day leads to the next.  And oft time it IS the next day, where the sun is bright on our back, that reminds us all to cherish our existence.  Who would think that a small event in one's past would have such a long lasting and profound impact.  But then, by being there everyday, that time was there to experience.

Security is a Personal Responsibility
21 April 2007

The tragedy that befell the many lives at Virginia Tech earlier this week certainly has prompted a lot of discussion.  It seems that there has been no shortage of analysis of this event.  Of course, this is as it should be.  We should always reflect upon what might have been done differently so that such a devastating occurrence does not happen again.  It was a shame that policy was in place that prevented those individuals from defending themselves.  But when I set out to write this column, it was my intent not to focus on the negative aspects of life.  I have done that in the past and to some degree I have regretted it.  Rather, I want only to look forward and provide inspirational and empowering thoughts and ideas that we might live better lives.  And part of that includes a feeling of safety and security.  So what does one do to arm themselves against persons who might do us harm?  At a downtown traffic intersection, almost all of us possess the skills to read the immediate environment and step confidently into a crosswalk in front of heavy machines that have the potential to cause us severe injury.  And we do this every day almost instinctively.  And yet, when we encounter persons who are just as dangerous, we often ignore the red flags that could have kept us safe.  Its as though we simply stepped out into high speed traffic with no regard!  So again, what are we to do?  By far, the best weapon we can possess is EDUCATION!  What could be better than a handbook to help guide us?  A number of years ago one of my sisters suggested that I read a best selling book, The Gift of Fear, written by Gavin de Becker.  After only a half dozen pages I was hooked.  I realized that this book would have a profound effect on the way I viewed the world.  I came away with new tools to recognize when persons were trying to gain control over me.  Now, it would probably be rare that any one of us would encounter a serial killer.  But it IS everyday that we meet persons who want us to do what they want.  It could be as simple as someone using techniques in selling a vacuum cleaner.  Or it could be that another person wants to gain access into your home, only to rob, rape, or kill.  What those situations have in common becomes clear when one understands how persons work to gain control.  Gavin de Becker is absolutely skillful with illustrating examples to make so much of this very clear.  You can learn more about his book and his organization that evaluates threats at his website:  Gavin de Becker and Associates.  So I conclude this message making the charge that security is a personal responsibility.  Law enforcement cannot be everywhere at every minute.  You must learn to take care of yourself, with your first defense in recognizing your environment and working to prevent harm to yourself.  And while the Virginia Tech tragedy was bad, let us never forget that in the United States, over 4000 women a year die at the hands of their partners.  And most of these leave families and friends, wringing their hands, knowing that the warning signs were there, but they heeded not their instincts.  Being educated is empowering.  It means that you can walk though the world, aware, but not paranoid.  And true fear, when needed, will keep you alive.  Please, pick up a copy of Gift of Fear at your local bookstore today.  Your life can only be enriched with your new knowledge.