November 19, 2019

Thanks teachers, librarians, coaches, counselors

by Rod Smith

The Mercury / Wednesday

Thank you, teachers, librarians, school counselors and sports coaches:

• You have given treasured memories to our children and to the parents when we ourselves were children. Your names come up at random times. We speak of what we learned from you. It was easy to believe you knew everything about everything and it was comforting and encouraging to believe someone did.

• You have corrected, cajoled, encouraged, and willed our successes. You believed in us when it was often very hard to believe in ourselves. And then, most of us did – at least at some point in this magnificent journey.

• You have created a warm welcome into a warm environment – a home-from-home – when at times home itself was neither warm nor welcoming. When parents were at war with each other your classroom was a haven of safety. You, yourself, were a safe place when it seemed there was none.

• You made transitions a part of life and then we discovered that they really are a part of life, right to the very end.

• You modeled good manners, you promoted the values of good, hard work; you imparted age old values in a world that seems bent on trying to escape them.

November 18, 2019

Do your children a few favors:

by Rod Smith

The Mercury / Tuesday

Do your young and older children a few favors*

• Get out of the way so your children can learn to forge their own paths.

• Resist the urge to speak for your children especially when others (teachers, coaches, other adults) are engaging them in conversations.

• Trust life itself to teach valuable lessons. You can probably reflect on your life and acknowledge that some of the most valuable lessons you have ever learned you learned on you own. You might agree that the best attempts of your parents to teach you these same lessons probably failed.

• You may have noticed parents who seem to be afraid of and even intimidated by their children. Combat this. It’s unhelpful and unnecessary in every direction. You are the parent your son or daughter needs. Backing off in fear or in hoping to remain popular (or for whatever odd reason) helps no one.

• Learn to hold your tongue. Not everything you think or feel has to be said. This is especially necessary when you are stressed by matters unrelated to your children.

• Speak your mind but give yourself room to think before you do. Blurt out good news but if you are sitting on a difficult or tough message allow yourself time (usually 24 hours) to offer your approach time to mellow.

• Show up for events, sports, shows, and presentations. Your support will be appreciated especially if you are well behaved. You may have noticed that some parents are not.

* As always I am my first reader.

November 14, 2019

Three pivotal truths

by Rod Smith

Mercury Friday

Note to self:

Love and control cannot live in the same relationship…. it’s one or the other. You can’t have both. You don’t “allow” your spouse or your close friends more freedom, anymore than you “allow” wild birds to fly, or the seasons to change, or the morning to follow the night. Freedom is a divine gift. Caging, or restricting another, or manipulating another, (and often it is done in the name of love) is the very antithesis of love. It kills relationships. Sometimes the death is slow, sometimes it’s quick. But, it is never helpful.

Generosity, forgiveness, and hospitality, are among the most powerful gifts people can offer each other. Give freely and your heart will grow, your courage will multiply, your chances at true happiness will all-the-more likely become yours.

Chasing more education, committing time and energy to a small group of friends, finding a place to regularly serve and love others, will cumulatively, add greater meaning and happiness to your life, far more than any acquisition usually associated with happiness. It’s not in what you’ve got or what you have not got – it’s found in who you serve, who you love, and within the joy of constant discovery and learning.

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Unrelated pic: this is from a year ago. I’ll be forever grateful to the pack of young men (these and several others) who immediately embraced Nate on our arrival in this new city. Thank you, Gentlemen:

November 11, 2019

My hopes for you today

by Rod Smith

The Mercury / Tuesday

May your heart be renewed and full of great expectations and may it be resilient enough to embrace those who are unfamiliar with a warm and indiscriminate welcome.

May you know and see and experience the goodness of which you are capable and have the courage to let it have its full way with you.

May you have childlike eyes and may they be filled with joy and wonder as you allow them to see familiar things in new ways.

May your thoughts dwell on the goodness around you and may you spread the goodness you enjoy and focus on your great and healthy future.

May your words be soft and sweet and encouraging, while, at the same time, you remain unafraid to speak your mind with courage and conviction.

May your hands be open to give and receive. May your the touch be gentle and comforting on the lonely and those who are afraid and may your touch bring comfort and healing and kindness and relief to those who most need it and who may least expect it.

May your friendships deepen and expand and may all malice and contempt from you, and for you, cease.

November 4, 2019

Hats off to educators and coaches

by Rod Smith

The Mercury – Tuesday – to educators of all disciplines and who teach and coach students of all ages

(reprint by reader request)

Hats off……

• Hats off to teachers and coaches who love the world and its peoples and whose zeal for both rubs off on students.

• Hats off to teachers and coaches who love what they teach and coach and whose passion for their subjects and sports rubs off on students.

• Hats off to teachers and coaches who are as hard as nails with students over matters of integrity but as soft as warm butter when it comes to listening and attempting to understand students and their home-life, peer and social struggles.

• Hats off to teachers and coaches who know their students well enough to be able to anticipate problems so they can be addressed before they get out of control.

• Hats off to school administrators who have the courage to support teachers and coaches in the face of difficult parents and who have the courage to listen to all parties before they act.

• Hats off to school administrators who aspire to serve rather than be served, who understand the power of humility, and who see their essential role as empowering coaches and teachers and students to get the very best from each other.

• Hats off to parents of students who seek to respect and learn from their children’s school teachers and coaches and administrators rather than demand rights or seek to chastise or correct.

October 22, 2019

What do you do with emotional pain?

by Rod Smith

The Mercury / Tuesday – Pain

What do you do emotional pain?

If, in the midst of emotional pain, I tell myself that “all people have pain” or that “it’s normal to have pain” or that “my pain is not as bad as the pain others have to endure” I know I am not really dealing with it.

It’s not serving its useful exposing or healing purpose.

This form of self-talk retains the experience in my head and blocks its necessary journey to my heart, my inner being.

This can go on for years, running around my head forming a pathway, a deepening, inescapable ditch.

If I admit that pain is a useful messenger and that some of it is a result of poor choices, the result of misguided self-importance, unique to me, and give myself some time, space to mourn the lack of connection I am experiencing, then the pain makes its rejuvenating transition to my heart.

I escape the ditch, the circular thinking and strongly experience my frailties, my vulnerabilities.

Once the inner-journey is made, from head to heart, I find I am able to treasure the growth rather than endlessly self-punish for things I did when I knew better but lacked the wisdom to behave accordingly.

October 14, 2019

The most powerful impact on your children’s futures……..

by Rod Smith

The Mercury / Tuesday

Powerful impact on a future……

The “right” schools, and carefully considered and monitored diets, guarded vocabulary, regular affirmations from attentive parents, and monitored internet activity are all very well but none of these solid parenting disciplines will shape a child’s life as powerfully as the ongoing presence of parents who are each living a mature life.

The mature parent:

• Has interest, passions, pursuits, and ambitions unrelated to the children. The children know they are one of several family priorities. The children receive divided attention.

• Loves the children without being unusually worried about, or preoccupied with them. The children are free to explore childhood without constant reminders to “be careful.” Mom and dad know “love” and “concern” and “worry” are not synonyms.

• Gives priority to a spouse or peers who are equipped to be in adult-to-adult relationships despite the natural pressure to defer to the children and their many demands. Adult-to-adult appropriate connections help keep the parent-child connection as free and uncomplicated as possible.

• Does not regard parenting as a path to redemption or proof of success as a person or parent. Mom and dad understand that redemption parenting is far too heavy a burden to place upon any child.

• Intentionally recruits multi-generational family involvement as much as possible.

• Is now, today, as much as possible, being the adult she or he hopes his or her children will one day be.

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October 13, 2019

Emotional wellness

by Rod Smith

TheMercuryRSA – Monday

Emotional wellness

I am doing well when I can think ahead, despite immediate pressures. When I am reactive, humorless (within reason – some things are never funny), my emotional-wellness requires some adjusting. If I persist in being reactive, and refuse to reflect and get matters into context and perspective, I am headed for trouble. Not good.

I am doing well when I regard all other men and women to be as fallible, fragile, and flawed as I am. Of course, there’s value in respecting people who handle life and responsibilities well, but I am better off in a world without pedestals. When I repeatedly elevate others (no matter who they are or what positions they hold) I am headed for trouble. Not too good.

I am doing well when I am involved in the lives of the people in our community, whether it is at work, at church, or in the neighborhood, where the bonds are not binds, and the relationships are not traps, and the hallmark is freedom, respect, and equality. When I become controlling or lose my identity to the group, I am headed for trouble. Tough times are ahead.

I am doing well when my first response to others is to listen and to be generous with my time and resources. When I am repeatedly tightfisted, I am heading for trouble. Generosity is the backdrop of emotional wellness. If I’m mean, repeatedly, where mean and stingy are my default positions, watch out brick wall, I’m headed your way.

October 10, 2019

Lessons from my father

by Rod Smith

The Mercury / Tuesday (repost)

Nine things I learned from my father or things he tried to teach:

• “There, but for the Grace of God, go I.” This he said when seeing anyone in a tight spot, self imposed or not.

• “What if it was us, Mavis?” This was his appeal to my mother who tended to want to watch expenses a fraction more than he did.

• Radical hospitality. Stories of our father opening our home to strangers are legendary. Some remain friends decades later.

• “Make your words soft and sweet in case you have to eat them.” He used this when I was judgemental or harsh.

• “Don’t carry your fish in a violin case.” My father despised pretension.

• “Build bridges; don’t burn them.” My father feared cut-offs. As do I.

• “A man who is going the wrong way down a one-way street already knows it – he needs help turning around.” Forever benevolent, my father championed the underdog.

• “Rather be fooled because you trusted too much than because you trusted too little.” And, sadly, he was frequently duped.

• “If the child needs milk the child needs milk – milk is more important to that child than the money is to me.” He’d open his grocery shop at all hours of the night and give milk to the mother of a hungry baby.

What did you learn from yours. Let me know.

E. W. G.Smith / HMS Dorsethire

October 9, 2019

No communication

by Rod Smith

The Mercury / Thursday

“There’s just no communication!”

I’ve heard versions of, “the problem in this relationship, family, business, school, church, charity, hospital, whatever, is that there is no communication” quite frequently.

This is usually the mantra of those on the “outside” of the decision-making process. It is especially repeated when those who are on the “outside” of the decision-making are either supposed on the inside, according to their roles, or those who think, correctly or incorrectly, they should be.

There is never “no communication.”

Individuals, groups, are constantly communicating.

The breakdown is often a failure to hear, to “read,” discern, or believe what it is being communicated.

Discerning what is being communicated in a “living system” where there is said to be “no communication” takes a mix of courage, honesty, and risk. It takes the capacity to realize that what is being communicated may not be a preferred message.

An unwanted or tough message is often interpreted as there being “no communication.”

“No communication” communicates volumes.

The challenge lies in responding in such a manner that illuminating dialogue may occur so the “no communication” may be understood.

What is this person, family, charity, school, and so forth, saying by saying so little or by shutting people out of the process of what is or not going on?

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Do you have the ears and the courage to hear what’s not being said……?