Things I want to say to younger people…….

by Rod Smith


Your parents are the most important people you will ever know. Get things right with them, and you’ll be poised for success.


By “right” I mean embark on the ongoing journey to develop your skills by loving, honoring, enjoying, and negotiating with them.

If you don’t, if you settle for on-going conflict, you will probably spend a lifetime engaged in conflicts large and small with others, especially with those whom you love.

Your parents are the springboards for everything.

Treat them well.

Of course I am well aware that not all parents are committed to their children or deserve the kind of respect and effort I am suggesting.

In very unusual circumstances, parents have been particularly evil. This is so unusual and I’d encourage young people from such families to communicate with me directly.

Yes. Your imperfect mother and father, with all their faults and failings, are the perfect training ground for you to learn and discover almost everything you need to know about how life works.

Get what you can, while you can – in faith, in humility, and with grace.

The rewards are timeless.

You’d be amazed at the power of politeness. By this I mean expressing genuine care and awareness of others.

Saying “please” and “thank you” and “may I help you” and “is there anything you’d like to tell me” is like dropping a drawbridge for goodness to pour in and out of your own life.

While it’s unwise to be polite simply for the return (that’s an advanced form of manipulation) genuine care and politeness will re-ignite something good in you that is tough to stop.

Asking people of all ages about their days, really taking an interest in others and in developing your manners will not only distinguish you from others who are your age, but it will give you a taste of the beauty of life that is quite astounding.

Listening, asking polite questions, following up with appropriate questions, learning the art of NOT making every conversation about you and your interests will open your heart to a world the self-centered cannot see.

Try it. Use your parents for target practice. Even if you fake it you might awaken some dormant goodness and kindness that’s been hiding beneath your possibly surly surface since you hit your teen years, and you might be more than overwhelmed at the results.

You are stronger, more resilient, flexible, and adaptable than you probably realize. At the same time you are more vulnerable, weaker than you could ever imagine.

This is one of life’s many and glaring contradictions.

The more you search for certainty, for something to be either black or white, right or wrong, the more you will alienate yourself from the beauty of not knowing, and the beauty of a world that is magnificently and mysteriously ambiguous.

In your strength, take full responsibility for yourself, your future, your education, your work ethic, and your day-to-day attitude. Live above blaming the “new South Africa” or the “old South Africa” for the way things are. The “new” you rests with you. Your full potential and your strength and beauty will be blemished if you blame others or build a life in reaction to anything or anyone.

In your weakness and vulnerability, embed yourself into a community of diverse people. Find a place within a group where you can learn from your elders. Find a group where you can be deeply known – and stick with it. Stick with it for years.

Your youthful invincibility and your human vulnerability are dueling realities within you. Enjoy both.

We are all “less human” when we want one without the other.

There is nothing in alcohol, a cigarette, or in anything you can smoke, inhale, snort, inject that you need, or will be of long-term benefit to you. Don’t begin behaviors legions are trying to overcome. If it makes slaves of millions and messes with your still-forming brain, why start it? This is the ultimate stupidity.

I am aware that people become addicts for complex reasons. Nonetheless, the formula is simple: if you stay away from addictive activities they won’t take hold of you, whip you around for the rest of your sad, painful life.

If you don’t start, you won’t have to stop. You won’t have to go to rehabilitation and sit for hours in little groups nodding your head, listening to others ramble and ache for sobriety.

Addictions are wild dogs. They travel in packs. They fight among themselves. They are vicious, conniving. Yet, oddly loyal – not to you, but to each other. Crudely, they gang up against you and will not let go until you are devastated, broke, or dead. Yes. Dead.

You will hardly ever find a person who is addicted to only one substance or one addictive activity. They travel in packs. Beware of the Wild Dogs.


Love is not possessive, not even momentarily. Don’t fall for the lines of anyone who “loves” you and wants to control you. It’s usually nonsense like, “I can’t live without you and I am jealous because I love you so much.”

While it may seem insignificant, always keep the power of what you wear to yourself. Except for your parents, don’t give it to anyone. This is much more than about the choice of shirt or blouse. It demonstrates that you have boundaries. If you hold onto this power you will be able to “hold onto yourself” when you face other important power plays you will face.

Asserting your boundaries will quite naturally fend off less healthy people – people who measure their importance, and often measure love, by how much sway and influence they have over others. They will be disinclined to mess with you once they know you make all decisions regarding your life, how you dress, and how you behave.


Controlling people do so because they can. They will keep a healthy distance from those who will not play their games – which is, of course, exactly what you want.

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