The Value Of Human Interaction

By Ron Ciancutti

What do you value?

I have a friend that values free food. Wherever we go, whether it is a sporting event, conference, church social, poker game--if someone serves him something for free, he’ll look over at me and give me that exaggerated thumbs up. I might even get a pump to that thumb like, “Yeah! Nailed the freebie!.” He’s so embarrassing.

My wife is big on unwavering honesty. “No, no, no don’t tell me you like it, tell me if you’ve ever had lasagna this good.” So I finally say, “I’ve never had lasagna this good.” And then she’ll say, “You’re lying.”

My supervisor likes exact numbers. It isn’t “around quarter after eight” it’s “eight fourteen a.m..”  The figure wasn’t off by a million, it was off by $999,998.03!


My dad valued home cooking. The meals my mom made in our family home were heavenly and dad always gave her the due they deserved. Eating to him was like a religious experience; he relished every bite she produced. It wasn’t uncommon for him to push back from the table and thank her. “Babe, that was a great meal!” I remember noticing how good that made her feel which was probably something she valued. When I eat there now, I say the same thing because it’s true and because she should still feel good about it.

But it seems these days I don’t see young people valuing the things I did and it worries me; not so much for the unbalanced future they will provide to me as our future politicians and leaders, but for them as people with highly compromised value systems.

Here are some people I valued over the first half of my life:

  • The boss that yelled at me for clocking out after my break so I could “pad” my hours.
  • The girl that told me what I said offended her.
  • The teacher that told me that you can’t get by on talent alone.
  • The things my parents noted and appreciated that others didn’t see.
  • The first girl that said she loved me and meant it.
  • My sisters who would laugh until they cried at my teasing and jokes.
  • My wife who said things that started with “Never before …” and “I never thought …”
  • A workmate who quoted me to others telling them I was so wise.
  • The elderly woman who heard me whistling in the store and asked me not to stop.
  • The bullies that forced me to get tougher.
  • Those I bullied who forced me to get softer.
  • The one-legged veteran who rose from his wheelchair during the national anthem.
  • The friends who looked at me with gratitude when I gave them my time or advice.
  • People I seemed to unburden when I minimized the importance of their problems.
  • Animal lovers who smiled when they saw me with animals.

And those are just a few off the top of my head. See, none of those could have been conveyed through electronic media or without a bit of risk. The smiles, the looks, the pats on the back--these things all need the endorsement of your human flesh. You can’t ride the wave of a hearty laugh with "reply to all." You can’t enjoy the candor of a good joke without feeling the anticipation of the punchline. Is there ever an "e-card" or "e-vite" that feels as personal as a hand-written version of either?

Well our kids are growing up in a culture where they don’t know the difference.  They can’t miss what they never experienced and those experiences, in my opinion, are life blood.

I think I was in eighth grade and as I was walking between classes a girl coming the other way stopped dead in front of me and handed me a triangular note all folded up. I had no idea what that was so when I got to the next class and plopped down my books I unfolded it and found a heart drawn inside and in it was written “If you come to the Valentine’s Day Dance this weekend please save one slow dance for me.” I was pretty sure that was the greatest moment of my life up to that point and I sat through the next hour of class without hearing a word the teacher said. I followed through that weekend, dressed meticulously, stung my face with dad’s aftershave and actually had two or three dances with that young lady that night. Weeks later, we went to a movie and held hands. I thought I’d graduated into manhood. What was next? A mortgage? A 9-to-5 job? Mere child’s play compared to the full-grown adult I’d then become.  But you see it allowed me to VALUE the sincere albeit baby steps I was taking as I grew. I earned it. You value what you earn and if there is an element of risk, the earning is just as important as the payoff.

Today--the kids silently watch each other on Facebook, figure out if the girl or guy is interested in anyone else and back off or attack based on a calculated risk. What fun is that? What personal values are challenged? Where is the adventure or the lesson?

If you review my bullet list above you see that errors and risks formed what I learned to value later. Will it ever be like that again? Not a chance and without the chance ...

… it has little value.

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 B.S. in Business from Bowling Green State University and an M.B.A from Baldwin Wallace University. He has held his current position as Director of Procurement since 1990. He is not on Facebook, but he can be reached at