Be Sure To Eat Your Greens

Sometimes, when I ask people, “How are you?” they answer, “It’s Monday!” I interpret that to mean the week is beginning and the weekend is far away, so they can only be so happy. At mid-week, there is a lilt of optimism in their response. “Well, at least it’s Wednesday,” they chortle. The Friday answer is obvious. “It’s Friday!” The weekend lies ahead. We even thank God for that day. One-liners like, “We made it through another one,” are common. I have to wonder--do we really want to dread and shove five days aside every week to get to where there are just two? It seems like an awfully depressing way to spend a week, let alone a life.

Giving Thanks

My father-in-law is from Italy, and was raised during some tough times. Working every day wasn’t guaranteed. In fact, for the first three or four years of my marriage, he asked me the same question every Sunday toward the end of our family meal. “Working tomorrow, Ron?” “Yes, sir,” I answered. He would smile and look around the table. “Good, good, that’s good to hear, huh?” Where he was raised, a man who went to work on Monday was fortunate. Many times he’s told the grandchildren stories of hiding under tables during air raids in France (where he also spent much of his childhood), and how he and his father tore into the farmers’ fields at night to take enough apples, oranges and grapes to feed his brothers, sisters and cousins. Few had money or even any skills to use in trade for food. Once in a while there was some work that earned a little pay, and everyone ate better that week. If someone said, “Working tomorrow?” and the answer was yes, it was a moment of pride and thanksgiving, certainly not regret.

Though most overstuffed Americans can’t even begin to understand what real hunger feels like, those of us gainfully employed should remind ourselves now and then how blessed we really are.

Love Living

Recently, my 11-year-old and I walked into the neighborhood pet store. An older gentleman was buying dog food and regarded us with a nod as we stood in line. My son, who knows the owner very well, began telling him how quickly his puppy had grown, gaining more than 80 pounds this year alone. With Sam’s expressive eyes and animated gestures, the tale of the monstrous dog was growing even faster than the dog. I noticed the older gentleman chuckling to himself as Sam waved his arms about, grinning with satisfaction at the opportunity to brag about his dog. The man paid for his items, and as he turned to leave, patted me on the arm. “God bless him,” he said. I could see he meant so much more. Bless Sam’s youth, his enthusiasm, his passion, his love for animals. Aah, to be that age again …

I’m sure if that fellow had been given the opportunity to have all those Monday through Fridays back that so many wish away, he’d have done so in a New York minute.

Food For Thought

Maybe we need labels like those required on packaging--the ones that indicate the caloric value as well as the nutritional standards of products.

Those labels are supposed to make it clear what you can get from what’s inside. Perhaps we should have labels on us so that others can consider what we think of ourselves and what we have to offer.

My label, read by my wife, might be as follows:

HUSBAND : Will provide on the following levels: love, passion, frustration, sharing, kindness, provider-related duties, protector, listener, comedian and designator of “do-overs” as needed. Prone to mistakes but intentions are sincere. Will love you the rest of my days, and smile every time one of the children does something that only you and I can appreciate. Will experience moments of hesitation because I may not always be sure what I’m doing is right. Before I met you, I was just a young man finding my way. With you, I became part of a team and responsible for many lives and much happiness. Don’t expect too much, and don’t expect too little, but work to understand me because as the days turn into years, I find that pleasing you remains my highest priority.

My supervisor might find the following label information:

EMPLOYEE : Remains dedicated, loyal and honest at all times because that distinction is as important to me personally as it is to you and the company professionally. May lose my way now and then, and take the wrong path, but my intentions are true. Will probably suffer personal equity loss rather than blame any of my staff for mistakes that have been made. I don’t think that is a fault. I strive to keep my personal life at home, but please remember that, like you, the two lives may occasionally spill over into one another. On those days, don’t press it--treat me as you would want to be treated. That’s easy to remember, no?

My mother may find the following helpful:

SON : Much of what I am was shown to me by you, and I am continually trying to represent that in a manner you will find proper. When Dad passed on more than a dozen years ago, I felt there were things I should do for you as the “only son.” I found that you were already strong and capable as always, so I didn’t know exactly what my new responsibilities would be. That’s when I realized my only job was to continue to love you as I always have, and the answers will find their way through. I am grateful for the way you respect my opinions, and am honored that you’ve given me the trust to help you with decisions since you’ve been on your own. I admire how well you have done, and appreciate the many gifts your way of life has inspired.

My sisters are very tuned in to me, but should check the label also:

BROTHER : Grateful for all you see in me and all your continued support. You should know that I love your children, and would raise them as my own if the need ever arose. I am so proud of both of you and the lives you’ve led and the people you created. Thank you for being the example you are to my children. I’ll never replace our father, but I hope I’ve been someone for you to rely on through the years past and the years ahead because I have certainly relied on you. You two are each a fifth of that place we called “home,” and that will never change.

Finally …

FRIENDS AND READERS : It is you who have allowed me to express my opinions and have actually listened to them as if they have merit. To a person like me, that’s critical, life-sustaining. The above-mentioned relatives have also been “friends” at one time or another, and have come to understand the messages and spirit I am trying to convey. I can never begin to thank all of you for indulging me as I constantly analyze and pontificate, but if I had kept all of those thoughts bottled up, I would have exploded by now. So thanks for giving me your ear and egging me on. A reminder to keep life simple, scratch when it itches, and be true to ourselves is a theme that simply does not get old.

The Last Course

See, the labels I reserve for my loved ones include my readership. I am obsessed with wanting to tell you things. When John McCain called Barack Obama after the Democratic Convention and told him the battle would rage on the following week but for that day congratulations were in order because Obama’s speech was impressive, I hoped every one who reads my work saw the “higher road” taken there. When Obama was offered the chance to tee off on Sarah Palin’s pregnant daughter, he said the race was tough enough, and that the children should be left out of it. Man, that really takes character.

I hope people will say, “That’s the kind of stuff Ron talks about, right there.” A label is one thing, but living life in a manner that sets an example of class and maturity makes everything, everywhere better. Such behaviors will eliminate bullies, liars, petty criminals, road-ragers, and more of the same. Life is so serious on so many levels, but can’t we enjoy the ride a little more? Embrace Monday through Sunday, and lighten up as we travel. Willy Wonka said, “A little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest men.” Let’s be sure we save room for dessert.

Ron Ciancutti is the Purchasing Manager for Cleveland Metroparks. He can be reached via e-mail