February 25, 2018

Coffee-shop behavior

by Rod Smith

How to behave in a coffee shop:

  • Spread your belongings onto several chairs and pull a few tables together so you can occupy as much space as possible. Sigh and grumble when customers are looking for a place to sit and hint that you may want to offer a little of your coffee shop real estate to others.
  • Have several technology devices going at the same time so as to add to your importance – one lap-top computer is not enough – have a couple of phones going too, even if you’re just watching your latest YouTube post on all of them to boost your numbers.
  • Give dirty looks to people at tables who are disturbing your work by talking to each other.
  • Order the cheapest drink on the menu and occupy the space hours after you’ve consumed it. Keep the cup to show you have paid your way.
  • When you arrive huff and puff near your favorite tables if they are occupied. The customers who are there before you might not know you they are in your spot.
  • Set up your office space and conduct interviews with prospective employees or prospective customers. They will be really impressed with your approach to cost savings and they’ll have an inkling about how you will treat them.
February 24, 2018

Bravery

by Rod Smith

Bravery – The Mercury – Thursday

Brief insights on (real) bravery

• The person who is willing to tell the truth despite the possibility of fallout or the incurrence of personal cost – a word is a bond

• The person who self-edits and chooses truth in the minutia of life rather than expressing half-truths or “little” lies which may make life easier or more convenient – truth begins within

• The person who could legitimately expect to be served by others but who chooses instead to serve others – joy comes from serving

• The person who repeatedly believes in the best of others despite the repeated failings of others – there is gold (somewhere) in all

• The teacher or coach who sees talent in a student and is willing to appear to fail or appear to be less than successful so a student may learn or experience something new – success breeds success and doesn’t always look like success

• The parent who knows how much to tell a son or daughter and how much to withhold from a son or a daughter so he or she may be necessarily and appropriately informed and yet at the same time not unnecessarily burdened – love includes and love self-edits

• The person who knows and understands that love is about listening and supporting and learning and making room for the needs and concerns of others – love makes room for others.

February 22, 2018

How much do I tell my sons?

by Rod Smith

“My sons are 14 and 11 and are both very close to their grandmother. They know their grandmother is facing some serious health issues. I try to guard them from the harsh realities but I also don’t want to cover up the truth. My mother is a very positive woman and wants to include them in conversations about her health. What do you think?”

I’d suggest you trust the strong bridges you have all already built toward each other for many years.

Tell your sons about your impulse to guard and protect them from what is happening in the family.

Talking about how you want to shield them is as important as the conversations about their grandmother’s health. Open conversations are a means of offering support and love and will feed the hope you all share. Invite your mother to share as much as she is comfortable with sharing and invite her to do it with or without your help or presence.

Meaningful and kind and considerate conversations help families breathe and the legitimate inclusion of your sons will not only help them play their significant role in their immediate community but also prepare them to love and support you and their own families in days to come.

February 21, 2018

Helicopter parents

by Rod Smith

It’s easy to knock so-called helicopter parents – the ever-present, ever-serving, ever advocating parents who are perpetually running interference with schools and coaches, often in ways that can be stifling, even damaging the very children around whom they hover.

All behavior has meaning. Parents “helicopter” their children (I’m amused that I used “helicopter” as a verb) for deep, powerful and hidden reasons, reasons often vastly beyond simple formulae or fixes.

What I do know is that it has nothing to do with the child. I’d motivate for understanding, empathy, awareness, and acceptance for the helicopter parent. Perhaps it is fear driven. Perhaps there’s a lack of trust with that lack originating long before the child was born. Perhaps the child is regarded as a lifeline to something saner, something more tolerable than the parent has ever known. Perhaps the parent has been used and discarded in the past and is dead set on safeguarding the child so history will not be repeated. Perhaps the marriage is perched precariously on hopes of the child’s success.

There are reasons to fear, lack trust, to want a life more powerful and meaningful than the parent may have known.

Empathy, awareness, acceptance, and understanding may go a long way to secure the helicopter’s safe landing rather than the humor or rejection used to shoot it down.

February 20, 2018

Beautiful/brutal

by Rod Smith

I’ve long held the belief and seen repeatedly that life is both beautiful and brutal. The news, while more frequently focused on the brutal, is also full of examples of beauty.

Perhaps where the beauty is most apparent and it’s brutality is toughest to bare, is where I see the brutality of life working its path in my sons’ lives:

·      This weekend I attended an event called “One hundred Men Who Cook” and watched the gathered crowd gather up over a quarter of a million dollars for a chosen charity. Beautiful.

·      This weekend I watched interviews with families who lost sons and daughters in a school massacre in Florida. Brutal.

·      On Sunday I talked to my brother and sister about matters we each find important. Beautiful.

·      My older boy is reeling in the wake of unexpected news from a far-off place (brutal) and I watched his younger brother comfort him as only a brother can (beautiful).

·      When I really am missing South Africa I sometimes will download a sermon from a church I have heard of and find some comfort. This weekend I heard Elliot Sonjica of Hilton Christian Fellowship preach about the role of the deacon. Beautiful.

May there be an imbalance in your life – where the beauty outdoes the brutality by a really large margin.

February 19, 2018

Lifestyle of anger

by Rod Smith

The Mercury – A life-style of anger (Thursday)

Some people are so angry, and have been angry for so long, they would not want to be without it. It is the only way they know how to relate to the world.

Life does not have to be this way for the angry person. There is always the grace to forgive, and the choice to live in peace with all people everywhere.

Obvious (overt) manifestations of anger are outbursts of temper, resentment, and the failure to forgive.

These are the easy clues to detect an angry person.

More subtle expressions of anger are deep cynicism, estrangement from family and friends, the desire to be isolated, and the loss of faith in loved ones.

These are as much signs of anger as is cursing at the traffic.

Anger begins as scaffolding surrounding a life, but then, if it is not dealt with, if matters are not settled; if it lingers, anger can become the very structure itself.

Give some angry people a reason to forgive, to give up their anger and they are left with nothing.

Anger is the lens through which they see the world, manipulate and control relationships, and without it, they become nothing. They have sold their peace in exchange for their resentments and have forgotten that it does not have to be this way.

February 18, 2018

Together…..

by Rod Smith

The Mercury / Monday Meditation

• You may earn more than I do and live in a nicer house – but our loneliness is probably the same. When it does it’s horrid trick it doesn’t really matter who has the most cash or the nicest home. Loneliness doesn’t care where we live or where and how much we bank.

Invite me in – perhaps we can be friends and ease our common pain.

• You may be more educated than I am and you may have graduated from a respected university – but I know that if you regard anyone, anywhere with contempt, your education has given you little worth knowing. I may not be very bright by your standards but I do know that truly educated people never use it as a weapon.

Talk to me – I might be able to teach you a thing or two.

• You may be more travelled than I am and can talk about places I have not heard of or could afford to visit in my wildest dreams – but if travel has made you contemptuous of your homeland and its peoples then travel has not done its finer work in you. Citizens of the world find beauty and wonder everywhere.

Come to my house – my culture is as interesting as any you will find on any distant shore.

February 17, 2018

How to burn out…..

by Rod Smith

The Mercury – Tuesday

How to burn yourself out in a few (8) easy steps….

• Volunteer with abandon to do things you know very little about and to look good in the eyes of people you hardly know. This ratchets expectations so you have much to live up to and you can put yourself under a lot of pressure.

• Keep lots of secrets, especially those that ought not be secrets in the first place and especially those that are none of your business anyway.

• Take on problems that other competent people have already found impossible to solve. Feeling, at least for a while, as if you are Superman or Wonder Woman, can offer a real charge.

• Gossip with abandon.

• Get slap-bang in the middle of other people’s conflicts, especially if the conflicts are none of your business, and especially if the conflicts have a long history. Being the new hope on the block will get you fired up. You’ll even feel very spiritual.

• Agree to roles (at work and where you volunteer) where you have much responsibility but very little, or even no authority. Guilt and blame are a real grind, and this is one way to ensure the grind begins as soon as possible. Remember, no pain, no gain.

• Take yourself really seriously – important people with important positions and important missions have no time for recreation. Why should it be any different for you?

• Be nicer than Jesus.

February 15, 2018

Tribal code

by Rod Smith

Each of us brings to every relationships a backdrop of how we view the world, understand commitment, view, and value people, join groups, terminate friendships, love, and leave home, nurture babies, pack the dishwasher, engage in or avoid conflict, and many things too numerous to mention.

Everything about our relationships is influenced by who, where, and how we were reared – among countless other variables, including natural endowment, and deeply held dreams and desires.

From these countless sources, experiences, and codes, both known and unknown, each of us was handed a Tribal Code or our truth about how life ought to work. How life was done, how relationships were conducted, talked or not talked about, became the folklore, the “correct” or the “right” way to live.

Your formative years did what they were supposed to do: they formed (and informed) you.

They taught you what, and how, to see, think and feel. They showed you what “normal” is to your family, and your experience became your measure of how life is supposed to work.

Then, when entering relationships, be it in marriage or if you are talking with your child’s teacher – the person opposite you has his/her own, and different, tribal code. He/she has his/her own lenses through which to see the world.

No wonder we can have a tough time getting along!

February 14, 2018

There are worse things for children than divorce

by Rod Smith

• Like being caught in the endless crossfire between warring parents.

• Like switching sides and armies every few days as you switch territories.

• Like being super-over-protected in the name of love and concern when the hyper-vigilance is really a means to get back at the other parent or to suggest the other parent is negligent or not as committed or as loving.

• Like hearing constant threats of court hearings and custody hearings and fights over money.

• Like not knowing what you can talk about and who you can say you love depending on where you are and who you are with.

• Like having your childhood freedoms curbed and stunted because the adults in your life refuse to grow up and so they use you as a trophy in their unresolved stuff that happened years before you were born.

• Like having to keep secrets and face weird punishments if you leak information you didn’t know was a secret.

• Like hearing both parents say they never speak badly about the other and you know both are lying.

• Like loving your mother’s or father’s new man or woman but not being free to say it or show it.