Archive for September, 2017

September 28, 2017

Worthwhile goals…..

by Rod Smith

Worthwhile goals – with the reminder that everything I write pertains first to me……

• Pay your debts, cash and other forms. Some debts can and will never be repaid and some mistakes will never be fully mended, but you can resolve to not make them again and you can hold yourself accountable for your own actions. Other people may have to suffer and learn from your mistakes, and that is rough enough, but if you don’t suffer and learn from your errors you are setting yourself up to repeat them. Some mistakes are really not worth repeating.

• Forgive completely and to the core. I know, I know, it’s very hard. But not doing so is even harder.

• Be someone’s shoulders – not to cry on although there is nothing wrong with that, but for another to stand on to reach goals he or she would not be able to reach without your help. Forget the costs or the credit or the applause. Empower as many people as possible just because you can.

• Go counter, respond in the “opposite spirit” (Loren Cunningham) – where people are hoarding and selfish be generous, where people are critical and full of judgment offer grace and comfort.

September 24, 2017

Fine acts of parenting

by Rod Smith

The Mercury / Monday 9/25/2017 / I have witnessed many fine acts of parenting:

  • The mother who sends her adult sons and daughters Mother’s Day cards with handwritten lists of joyous memories about what it has been like to be their mother. She has done this for so long that it was some years before the children (when they were children) even knew they were the ones who were supposed to send her cards.
  • The dad who traded in his own car and settled for a used car so he could give his son the sports car his son wanted.
  • The parents who each worked two jobs so the two sons did not have to assume significant debt to attend university.
  • The single mother who has the wherewithal to leave her daughter’s academic struggles up to her and who encourages her daughter to speak up about what she needs to her teachers.
  • The dad who packs his son’s lunch each day for school and who adds an extra pack for his son’s friend who once expressed to the boy that he wished that he too had a dad.
  • The dad who taught his son to share without ever saying it but by showing it at every turn.
  • The parents who never let drinking distort or shape the way they reared their children.
September 21, 2017

Trade me in….

by Rod Smith

“I have been in a relationship for three years. I heard that my partner would trade me in like he did with girls before. It has made me half the person I use to be. Today he left me and I behaved so badly. How do I become a better person for someone to love? I am tired of the rejection. I am tired of being told I am like a stuck record. I am irritating. I am tired of being told I use my kids to blackmail him.”

You’ve revealed much in your short appeal. Sounds like you give a disrespectful man more power than any man should want and no man deserves. If his reputation includes trading in women then I’d question why you are willing to stay at all.

A man who loves you will inspire you to become twice the person you are. He will derive no joy from diminishing you.

If your partner left you and as a result you behaved poorly then you are hardly accurate if you are blaming him. You behavior is your responsibility just as his behavior is his.

I’d suggest you move on before the humiliating act of “trading you in” occurs.

September 20, 2017


by Rod Smith

My teachers have never left me. They hover in my awareness and continue their work despite the decades that separate me from their classrooms, lecture theaters, labs, fields, gyms, and studies. Almost all were highly motivated and loved their jobs and regarded it as a calling and I can still hear them calling me to adopt high standards for others and for myself.

The few who didn’t love their jobs, those who landed in the classroom somehow against their will or to test the waters of education, also hover. Their obvious boredom, anger, or their cynicism, were in themselves powerful lessons.

I find it incredible that the teacher with the parrot (Mrs. Bradman) who dogged my third or fourth year of school and the psychology professor who was so self-absorbed more than a decade later and my family therapy professors a lifetime later and nations apart and Mr. Morey, Mr. Graham, Mrs. Hornsby, and Miss Chadwick (I could go on) do the cancan in my frontal lobe at the oddest moments.

I know, I know, someone is going to write and tell me there is medication for my condition – but I think not.

I think it’s a testimony to the power afforded men and women who are teachers.

September 18, 2017

Love doesn’t dress as anything but love…..

by Rod Smith

Love can be expressed in a vast variety of ways but it never hides behind some things:

Jealousy. Some think authentic love naturally involves elements of jealousy. Quite the contrary. Love celebrates freedom and encourages the loved to explore and enjoy many and diverse relationships.

Control. Perhaps this is Jealousy’s first cousin. Love and control cannot live within the same relationship and it is never an indication of love. Some claim they control others for their own good. This is nonsense. Healthy adults exercise no control over other healthy adults and when they do it is no indication of love.

Swearing, cruelty, and temper tantrums. These are never an indication of love. Some say screaming and the harshness show how much a person cares. Nonsense. Love always behaves like love.

Manipulation, domination, and intimidation. A loving person will not resort to these measures and will certainly stop them in their tracks once they begin to reveal their devious ways. Pushing and pulling others with a hidden agenda reeks of the antithesis of love.

September 17, 2017

It’s not where……

by Rod Smith

The Mercury / Monday

Thank you for reading my work. Really. I appreciate it.

Allow me to let you in a little.

I live in the USA, in Indianapolis, Indiana, to be precise. If you are reading this in a real newspaper you are probably somewhere in KwaZulu-Natal. I was born and reared in Red Hill, Durban.

If you are reading online you could be in any one of the 180-plus nations where people read this column.

Before you are overly impressed, in several of the 180-plus nations my readership totals 2 or 5 or even 8 people.

I am writing this particular column on the Saturday before you will read it on Monday. I am in a busy coffee shop on the very affluent side of our city. I drive here. We don’t live in this neighborhood. But, where we live is hardly poor. By American standards my sons and I are well off.

There are many days I want to be where you are. I miss the beaches, the weather, your naturally hospitable ways. I miss extended family.

I am sure there are times you’d like to be in the USA.

I’ve had this consistent thought since moving to the USA: It’s not where, but how you live that makes the difference.

September 14, 2017

Gifts we can each offer…..

by Rod Smith

Gifts we can offer those we love that cost everything and nothing all at the same time

• Listening – the willingness to listen without waiting to speak and without formulating a response or without re-arranging what we hear into something we may prefer to hear.

• Time – the willingness to schedule uninterrupted time together.

• Freedom – the willingness to resist taking or assuming control.

• Room for change – the willingness to allow those whom we love the freedom to change, the freedom to make errors, the freedom to be growing in ways we might not predict or expect.

• Thinking out loud – the willingness to allow those whom we love to speak things out as an exercise in exploring and planning.

• The possibility of failure – to be willing to encourage those whom we love to express new ideas and try new experiences with the understanding that they may not work.

• Room to apologize and to make things right – to offer those whom we love the space to express regret without recrimination or an attitude that says “I told you so.”

• Room even to “grow away” – some things the people whom we most love have to learn things alone and without us.

September 11, 2017

To anyone, especially the very young, tempted to self-harm…..*

by Rod Smith

The Mercury / Tuesday

Please, do not make such a drastic and permanent decision in your attempt to solve the problems you face or to alleviate the doom you feel.

Your actions will send your family reeling. They will be retelling of your death for decades as they attempt to piece together the mystery of why you chose to take your own life. Alternatively, your action may shock them into generations of silence, as they fail to resolve how you decided on an act so final. More important, much more important, you will miss your fabulous future and deny yourself the opportunity to enjoy all of life’s challenges and blessings.

You are loved – even though this may not be your immediate experience. And, you will be loved, even long after those you leave here will struggle to remember the sound of your voice.

There is a way through your overwhelming experience that does not involve self-harm. Always. I know it all now feels pointless. It’s not. There are adults and friends who can and will assist you. There are better days ahead for you even if everything feels impossible.

Please, make the slightest turn from the foreboding darkness desiring to envelop you. Edge toward a positive act, a miniscule movement toward a caring, trusted friend or adult. Whisper, or scream that you need help.

* There seems to be an increase in suicide among early teenage boys and girls in my city. Perhaps this will dissuade one such child in yours.

September 10, 2017

The continuum

by Rod Smith

The Mercury – Thursday

Family Emotional Health is on a continuum. All families fall somewhere between remarkable wellness on one end and debilitating dysfunction on the other.

Here are few of several measures:

Healthy families talk about anything and everything: love, sex, justice, peace, pollution, religion, literature, death, dying, money, and a lot more – there are no “no-go” areas. People talk as well as listen – people get to freely agree and disagree – and everyone gets a turn at some point.

“We need to talk,” is celebrated.

Unhealthy families, if they talk, the conversation is scripted. Topics to avoid are known even though they are probably not clearly defined as “no-go” topics. People just know not to “go there.”

“We need to talk,” fills family members with apprehension and fear.

Healthy families are unpredictable – they can change directions in a minute, seize unexpected fun opportunities, and are unafraid of the unknown, the unexpected. They frequently do daring things – the things less healthy families often consider irresponsible.

The more a family leans toward dysfunction, the more it craves certainty, predictable routine, for things to be under-control, for things to go to plan. Fun is organized; it’s planned, if it is embraced at all.

Healthy families embrace non-conformity. Unhealthy families interpret it as betrayal.

September 9, 2017

Counterintuitive “realities”

by Rod Smith

People who are more defined, more separate, and who can live without each other are more likely to stay together in a long-lasting committed relationship than those who are very close and can’t live without each other. Even trees need space. So do people.

When a relationship is faltering people want to analyze it, work on it, talk about it and fix it; when relief and healing my indeed come from benignly ignoring the relationship as each participant commits to working on him or herself. Declaring personal goals and dreams that may have zero to do with the faltering relationship can go a long way toward its healing.

Childhoods are important (of course) and a happy one is what any reasonable parent strives to give a child, but, not every relationship malady or personal failing can be placed at the foot of flawed parenting or childhood trauma.

Understanding and talking about matters is not always helpful and is not always the golden key to possible solutions. Sometimes people have to simply change unhelpful habits, get off the couch and work harder and stop rehashing excuses for their behavior or searching for its source in a troubled childhood.