March 31, 2020

Happy birthday to my son

by Rod Smith

Our first podcast: https://m.soundcloud.com/hushall/you-and-me-3-31_my-birthday/s-HwPsrz7WM2P?in=hushall/sets/you-and-me-podcast/s-yW6UYH6Ymqa

March 31, 2020

Private celebration

by Rod Smith

On April 1, 1998, I sent a group email announcing I had responded positively to a woman who asked me to adopt her newborn baby. Some recipients thought it was an April Fools’ prank. 

Thulani, 22 today, will graduate in May from a prestigious private university. He earned the bulk of his hefty four-years of fees through scholarships and by maintaining academic excellence. His degree cost me a fraction of the total expense. He is so thoroughly personable the university officials bent over backwards to ensure my son had what he needed.

Thulani made promotional advertisements for the university and its basketball team because he loves to create. That his creations would “go viral” and serve the university was something Thulani would later discover. He did what he loved and the consequences rewarded him.

Life is like that, usually. Good things usually happen to good people. 

Right now everything the world over seems upside down. I wish my son was having a huge birthday and graduation event. He is not. We know this is a minute sacrifice when compared with others who have and will bury loved ones as this viral terror continues. 

We will light candles on a birthday cake and thank God for a boy’s success while we remember those who suffer. 

Life is beautiful. Life is brutal. Stay home. We are. 

March 30, 2020

It’s always time to love

by Rod Smith

The Mercury / Tuesday

It is always time to love.

These unique days offer each of us extraordinary opportunities to learn about it in new and deeper ways.

When I say “us” I mean all of us.

I mean people on every continent, of every faith tradition. I also mean people who claim none and those who have formerly been enemies.

I have been good at love, even unselfish, for rare moments. Mostly, I have loved in selfish ways even though “selfish” and “love” are contradictions.

I want to be better at it.

I want to improve my love skills.

Please join me.

I have witnessed and experienced authentic love and noticed:

• Love seeks the highest good for all concerned.

• Love sacrifices wisely so others may benefit.

• Love is never jealous. Jealousy expels love.

• Love wisely forgives. Wise forgiveness remembers so traps, errors, manipulations, are not repeated. It is possible to forgive and to remember – actually it is rather wise.

• To employ a metaphor, love is a long-haul journey and not a brief walk in the park. It takes thirty or forty years for love to mature.

• Love resists all forms of coercion. It really does make others free.

• Love considers the big picture and not immediate returns.

• Love is not about who the “other” is or is not, it’s about who and what the one doing the loving is.

For a (far) superior definition take a long and enduring study – a month or two – of what the apostle Paul (formerly Saul) had to say about love in 1 Corinthians 13…. the whole chapter, not only the portions traditionally used at weddings.


March 27, 2020

Prayers for our children

by Rod Smith

The Mercury / Weekend

Prayers and desires for our children young and older….

• That they may find useful, positive passions, and spend their energies on things they love and make their livings from using their talents.

• That they may find and enjoy deep, lasting reciprocal and respectful friendships.

• That they may have mutual, equal, respectful intimate relationships.

• That they may neither intimidate nor be intimidated by others no matter who they are or what positions they hold.

• That they may know they are deeply loved and respected by their immediate and extended families to whom they owe nothing but the return of healthy love and respect.

• That they may be enduring life-long students and patient teachers.

• That they may love powerfully and be powerfully loved in relationships that are free and devoid of all jealousy and possessiveness.

• That they may grow into generous and kind people who are trusted by others who recognize their integrity and goodness.

• That they may have each other’s backs while risking the natural urge to rescue each other from self-made difficulties.

• That they may develop goals and ambitions that far surpass making a good living but that include serving others and enhancing the lives of people whom they don’t know and may never meet.

March 23, 2020

Your part in the global event

by Rod Smith

The Mercury / Tuesday

I will make a few predictions of things that will arise from this global turmoil:

• Great novels will emerge penned by people who are thus far unpublished or unknown authors. They will be writers of diverse backgrounds and languages and their books will be read and studied from here on out in the manner we already read established classics.

Is there a novel stirring in you?

• Music that will be known throughout the world will be composed during this pandemic and it will be with humanity for the rest of time. The same is true for all forms of art: painters will paint, dancers will dance, as thus far unknown talents use this time for all they are worth.

Are you one such artist?

• Great acts of human kindness are happening all over the world and most of them will never be recorded or known. Lives are being touched, miracles of generosity are occurring and the transformations are touching the givers and the receivers of such acts.

Are you playing your part in the global miracle?

• There are extended families who have known great division and conflict who will cast all divisions aside and find each other again and hold each other in highest regard and with deepest respect.

Will you be an agent of healing in your family?

[I have written what is above with the full and sad understanding that most of the world will not be in as privileged a position as to do anything but take the inevitable pain coming our way.

Nonetheless, there will be great and powerful things that come from this, too.]

March 22, 2020

Good Monday morning, South Africa

by Rod Smith

The Mercury / Monday

A good Monday morning to you, South Africa.

At least for now the world as we’ve known it has shifted. For you and for me.

Nonetheless, I am who I am. You are who you are. Wherever we are, we have responsibilities, callings, commitments.

I believe we can get through this and come out better people for it.

This is an opportunity to grow in integrity, kindness, and in generosity.

We can each be a form of anti-virus.

I believe each of us can play our unique role in becoming part of the solution and resist amplifying the problem.

I believe we can halt perpetuating the prevalent anxiety as we learn to “hold onto” ourselves.

This will be easier if we:

Decide on how we will behave before we have to. This takes concerted effort to plan, as much as possible, how we will respond to all that comes our way.

Set limits, boundaries, decide on levels of investment in all matters before we enter into important conversations or contracts, no matter how formal or informal.

Decide who we are and what we will do and won’t do before someone or some circumstance does. Steer your own boat. This is NOT selfish. Selfishness is trying to steer someone else’s boat.

Offer others the benefit of the doubt unless repeated experience suggests doubts were legitimate despite having appropriately voiced your concerns.


March 19, 2020

Try it, you’ll see…..

by Rod Smith

I know some things about you.

How?

You are a member of the human family.

You may hide these qualities or life itself may have attempted to beat them out of you, but, these qualities are within you. I know it.

I do not care who you are or what bad or unseemly things you may have done.

You are designed to serve others and are happiest when you do. Try it.

You are creative, funny, and you are able to spread joy.

If you spend a little time everyday singing, yes singing, you will release something powerful within you. This is true even if you think of yourself as a terrible singer and have to do it in absolute privacy. Try it. Begin with a favorite hymn you learned in church or a song you remember from childhood. Belt it out.

You are capable of listening to others with no strings attached. You are gifted in this regard. Try it.

You are designed to be wisely generous with time and resources as limited as both may be. Try it and you will unlock something beautiful within you and you and others will be transformed.

In these troubled times you are a walking talking fountain of kindness, goodness, and generosity.

It is in troubled times when you will be at your very best.

Don’t believe me?

Try it. You’ll see.

You are as beautiful and powerful as any human who has ever lived.


Oh, the things I’d tell this boy if I’d had the opportunity……..!

March 16, 2020

Step up or step down?

by Rod Smith

In challenging times are you a step-up or a step-down transformer?*

Step-down transformer: 

You listen, digest, then respond. If reporting is necessary you do so honestly and without adding drama. You are as objective as possible. You try to downplay details you are unsure of or that you know will spike unnecessary anxiety. You are skilled at calming yourself and anxious people. You know anxiety is contagious so you’re careful not to be a carrier. You know caring and worrying are not the same thing. 

You are able to turn some mountains into molehills.   

Step-up transformer: 

You find it difficult to listen because you only hear what you want to hear or what fits with your already anxious state. You amplify anxiety. You pad details to make things seem worse than they are. You add drama. When upset, unsettled and you think others should be as well. People who are non-anxious under trying circumstances annoy you. You’ve  confused caring with worrying and see no difference or separation between the two. 

You turn molehills into mountains.

Relax, if you can. If you’ve identified that you’re an amplifier of anxiety you’re not stuck in this mode. 

Movement and growth is possible. 

Be aware if you’re overly proud of your non-anxiety. It may well be denial! 

Enjoy yourself – we are all works in progress. 

Besides, joy is an effective antidote for anxiety. 

*Credit to Rabbi Ed Friedman for the initial metaphor. 

March 7, 2020

Zipho

by Rod Smith

It’s an epic journey getting to Durban – twenty-plus  air hours, three international airports, substandard aircraft meals – but, touch the ground on these gorgeous shores, feel the warmth, and I’m home. 

Yes. It’s arduous travel, hard on the body, but relief comes on touchdown. In conversations. Refreshing accents. Desire to please; serve. Interest in my origins from the welcoming team. Everyone I meet, bar none, appears enlisted in an army of  hospitality, each apparently sworn to welcome me and all visitors. 

Then, one more.

Waiting for the Mango flight from Cape Town to Durban, a young man, about my younger son’s age, sits next to me. 

We chat. I ask about his schooling. 

“I’m from LIV Village. Have you heard of it?”

I grab my phone and swipe for a photograph of my son wearing his LIV bracelet. 

We talk more. I can barely hold back my tears while he humbly reports his successes at sport, in the sciences. He  expresses a hope to attend university in Cape Town. 

Zipho tells me, as we board, there’s no required time or age to leave LIV. 

“We leave when we are ready.”

Thanks, Zipho, in our shared 45 minutes you made my day and I encountered first-hand the powerful love you found at LIV.

February 18, 2020

The 3 Ds

by Rod Smith

The Mercury / Wednesday

The three Ds

Distance, darkness, disease (feeling unwell) – these three henchmen working together are bad news.

Some years ago the boys and I were in Hawaii when I began to experience dreadful, very sharp stomach pains. Hawaii really is quite heavenly but if you are not feeling well even Hawaii can feel like the other place.

Distance plus disease does that. Distance from home amplifies the disease and the belief you have one.

During daylight the pain – sharp as it was – seemed to come and go and things felt somewhat tolerable.

At night, and when in the dark, the pain would hit and my mind would run marathons and before long I’d be convinced I was dying. I repeatedly told myself I should never have adopted the boys, very bad idea, only to die on them while they are sleeping in paradise. I visualized my body-bag being loaded into the hold of the plane, my sons peering at it through the United economy window, orphaned boys returning from paradise as confused unaccompanied minors. I could see, right there in the darkened room, tearful and fretting flight attendants fussing over them, plying the boys with ice cream to distract from seeing dad rough-handled onto the conveyor belt below like overweight luggage.

Darkness, disease, distance – were doing their work.

When you are far from home and not feeling well and it is night – things always seem worse.

When we arrived home I told my doctor I was dying.

“It’s not that easy,” he replied.

The next day I passed a kidney stone.