Archive for January 23rd, 2011

January 23, 2011

Three questions that on occasion come my way….

by Rod Smith

You adopted two children at birth as a single man. You are white and they are both black. Three questions: 1. Did you ever think of your actions as selfish given that there are thousands of couples trying to adopt? 2. How did you handle the children as infants – men don’t usually do that part of rearing babies? 3. Is race an issue? (Questions contracted from several sources into one reply).

Here we are: dog included!

Thanks for your loving concern. In both instances my children (now 12 and eight) came to me – as in, I did nothing to search for children.

1. Thulani’s mother approached me. Nathanael’s arrival was “out of the blue” when a friend knew he was “alone” and available at the local state hospital. I was present at Thulani’s birth and met Nathanael when he was 8 days old. So, no, I did not “take” my children from any couple but rather responded to a mother’s request and to a need.

2. It is a myth that women and not men can nurture a baby. Any reasonable man, given my circumstances, could and would do the same. I loved the late night feedings and all that went with loving infants.

3. Race is not an issue for me – clearly it is for you.

January 23, 2011

Living with an Open Hand…..

by Rod Smith

Hospiality, grace, radical freedom

Open your hand using all your strength. Stretch your fingers. Allow the lines on your palm to feel as though they might tear apart. Study the contours, colors, ridges and valleys, joints, dents and spaces. Push, pull, and rub. Move your fingers through their paces: together, apart, back, forward, curved, strained and relaxed, cooperative yet unique. Feel the texture and every curve. Touch the crevices. Spread your hand further, turn it at the wrist, examine and compare patterns from every angle. Here are pieces of yourself you might never have studied.

Your hands are your constant companions. They have met the needs of others, pioneered romantic moments and worn rings of commitment. They are the way your heart leaves fingerprints, the eyes at the end of your arms. Hands reflect a person’s being and are the front line agents of your life. If eyes are said to be the windows of a soul, hands express the soul.

Hold other people with your hand thoroughly open. Allow them to know the warmth and welcome of your hand, investigate its curves and benefit from its scars. Invite others to follow the lines into the fabric of your life and see the risks you have taken and the adventures that are yours. Allow them to wrestle and rest, search, see and speak. Let them stay; let them go, but let them find your hand always open.

The Open Hand of friendship, at its widest span, is most rewarding, most challenging and most painful, for it enduringly acknowledges the freedom others have while choosing not to close upon, turn on, coerce, or manipulate others. In such friendships, expectations and disappointments become minimal and the reward is freedom. As others determine a unique pace within your open hand, they will see freedom and possibly embrace their own with excitement and pleasure.

Openhanded people do not attempt to “fix” others, change, or control others even for their own good. Rather, each person is given freedom to learn about life in his own way. Openhanded people, instead, express kindly and truthfully what they think and feel, when asked, knowing even in the asking, others might not be interested or willing to learn.

The Open Hand is not naive. It is willing to trust, while understanding and accepting that no person is all good or all bad, and that all behavior has meaning. The Open Hand is convinced it cannot change others; it cannot see or think or feel or believe or love or see for others, but trusts people to know what is good themselves. It will not strong-arm, pursue or even attempt to convince others because it has little investment in being right, winning or competing. Here is offered a core-freedom of the deepest and most profound nature: allowing others to live without guilt, shame and expectation.

Further, the Open Hand offers oneself freedom that extends to one’s memories, ambitions, failures and successes. This allows for growth of enduring intimacy, greater personal responsibility, authentic autonomy, and the possibility of meaningful relationships with others.

In the discovery of a closed hand, even at the end of your own arm, do not try to pry it open. Be gentle. Allow it to test the risky waters of freedom. As it is accustomed to being closed and fist-like, it will not be easily or forcefully opened. So let the closed-handed do their own releasing and trusting, little by little, and in their own time and manner.

When openhanded people meet, lives connect in trust, freedom and communion. Community is set in motion. Creativity is encouraged. Mutual support is freely given. Risks are shared. Lives are wrapped in the safety of shared adventure and individual endeavor all at the same time.

Rod Smith, July 1997 / Copyright

January 23, 2011

A positive attitude towards the stepchildren can go a long way to a blissful existence

by Rod Smith

“I am also a step-mom to teenage boys ages 13 and 15. When I’m parenting my husband’s sons who live with us most of the time, I make sure their father is informed about everything. We usually have our ‘couple time’ at the end of the day when we talk about just about anything under the sun with parenting his sons included. His attitude is that this is our house and the boys have to abide with whatever rules I have made. I think I make sensible rules as my appreciation to him for giving me a free hand at parenting. These rules are usually about maintaining a clean and tidy house, good moral conduct, and maintaining a moral high ground. A positive attitude towards the stepchildren can go a long way to a blissful existence. It is futile to ‘fight’ the children whom I knew were part of the package when I married their father.”

Thank you for your gracious insights. Your capacity to communicate as a couple, your husband’s confidence in himself, in you, and in his children, and your combined ability to be consistent, has made a joy for you what is a nightmare for some.