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From the movie “Parenthood” (1989):

[Gil has been complaining about his complicated life; Grandma wanders into the room]

“You know, when I was nineteen, Grandpa took me on a roller coaster. Up, down, up, down. Oh, what a ride!  I always wanted to go again. You know, it was just so interesting to me that a ride could make me so frightened, so scared, so sick, so excited, and so thrilled all together! Some didn't like it. They went on the merry-go-round. That just goes around…. Nothing. I like the roller coaster. You get more out of it.”

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How do you measure success? Maybe more importantly; How WILL you measure success when your days are more behind you than in front of you and you’re looking back and reviewing it all?

Did you play it safe? Did you keep your emotions tidy and never reveal too much? Are you glad you did? Maybe it would have been more fun if you hadn’t played it so carefully.

Were you wild with your thoughts and attitudes? Were you loud and boisterous? Do you wish you’d have been a little more conservative and not told everyone every single thought that crossed your mind? Maybe it would have been more fun if you hadn’t played it so carelessly.

Maybe you always played it one way and vowed to change that and go the other way someday but never got around to it. Wonder how that worked out for you…

Here’s one to consider. Were you kind?

Even when that was difficult?

I find this to be a great challenge for me. I admit I am soft in many ways about confronting people on their shortcomings. I sort of turn a blind eye and try to find ways to help them succeed but when someone hurts my family or friends or knocks the things I believe in or place I work, live or pray I get pretty angry. At that point I am not always so kind. I can think of a few times when cooler heads would have prevailed but I had a hard time keeping it frosty.

That has mellowed as I age. I kind of step back and collect my thoughts. I find it much easier to utter something wise after evaluating the situation than to blurt something out and have to retract it. I’ve also learned when you can nod instead of speak it is very handy if you are later going to be called out as the source. This comes in especially handy when your wife asks, “Who said the kids could have ice cream for lunch?” Because see the kids will give you up and say, “Dad did.” Then you can say, “No I didn’t.” And they say, “I saw you nod your head….. I thought.” Then you just shrug and walk away, smiling at your wife saying “kids – where do they get this stuff?”

But all that said I think the kindness angle is the one we need to debate a bit. There are lots of opportunities to be nasty in life. You’ve heard me mention the senior citizen driving slowly in the fast lane, the guy in front of you at the grocery line that has to write check and can’t find his I.D. and is taking forever, or even the long-winded relative who never uttered a short version of any story.

All of these folks need your tolerance, your patience, your smile and they are all rooted in your kindness. I am finding a sort of “calling” if you will when I hear of people going through some challenges. If I hear about them going through a particularly difficult period I will call and simply ask, “How’s it going?” It typically knocks the lid off the bottle and these people spew all of the hate and frustration they can muster. “How’s it going? I’ll tell you how it’s going.” This venting seems to work wonders and it really is no skin off your nose. You are just volunteering to be the open window that airs out the room.

I had a friend who lost a job only a few months after being hired. He’d been laid off a year before and was so excited when he finally landed another job that he called all of his friends and threw a little backyard barbeque to celebrate. He lasted around 4 months at the new job and then one Friday he was asked into the boss’s office and told not to bother coming back on Monday. He was absolutely heartbroken and even a little embarrassed because he’d made such a big deal of getting hired. As he described his behavior at work to me I could tell he had been mainly trying too hard and he made people uncomfortable being so “over the top” with everything. I thought about telling him that as he was explaining his version of what had happened and I realized there would be plenty of time to make that point in the days and weeks ahead. On this night, he just needed to blow it all out and I let him, even encouraged him to do so. I was being kind and simply hoping one day he wouldn’t need to reciprocate because as I listened to his frets and worries over how he was going to make ends meet I realized that but for the grace of God that could easily be me. And then he paused from his diatribe and said, “Hey but wait a minute Ronnie, how are you today” I realized right then that the character of this considerate man would never falter. His simple consideration at this dark hour of his spoke volumes about real integrity. I submit that real success and the real challenge in life seems to be not so much achieving success but sustaining it. You do that by being kind and considerate. It’s really the one gift you can truly, consistently share.

Ron Ciancutti has worked in the parks and recreation industry since he was 16 years old, covering everything from maintenance, operations, engineering, surveying, park management, design, planning, recreation, and finance. He holds a BS in Business from Bowling Green State University and an MBA from Baldwin Wallace University and has held his current position as Director of Procurement since 1990.

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