Archive for October, 2017

October 15, 2017

Go counter….

by Rod Smith

The Mercury – Thursday

Go counter…

When times are tough, as hard as it may be, try to do the counter-intuitive thing. Open your hand; don’t close it. If you hold onto what you already have, clutching your resources, as if your very life depended upon them, it will. Your life will be dependent on what you are preserving – your diminishing resources. You will miss the new resources that are trying to get your attention.

When your heart is broken, as hard is it may be, try to do the counter-intuitive thing. Open your heart; don’t shut it. Of course the impulse to protect can be overwhelming, but shutting down, refusing to feel, refusing vulnerability to opportunities is costly. A closed heart will struggle to heal and to let go. An open heart, despite the pain, allows the greater community to do its good and healing work.

When your dreams are shattered, as hard as it may be, try to do the counter intuitive thing. Dream again. If you live in persistent regret of how things could have been, and resent those who shattered or did not support your dream, or if you assign blame for why things did not turn out as you planned, yesterday’s disappointments block tomorrow’s success.

October 13, 2017

Longings for my sons…..

by Rod Smith

Seven longings I have for myself, my children* and students (past and present):

1. Personal Responsibility: that we live without blame, without the belief that someone, or something, is responsible for our futures, or, has caused our failures.

2. Absolute Forgiveness: that we become women and men who are able to forgive others even when it’s neither deserved nor necessarily recognized as needed.

3. Radical Hospitality: that we live with open doors, hearts, hands, and minds, ready to welcome strangers, waifs, loners, dignitaries, politicians, pastors, prostitutes, presidents, addicts, and enemies into our homes with generosity, love, and kindness.

4. Self Definition: that we are able to stand up for ourselves, think for ourselves, express our unique views, beliefs, and vision, without harming others.

5. That we be Interesting and Interested – given that there are enough lifeless, bored and boring people already.

6. That we Love and Trust God – not a weird (often dangerous) perversion created and perpetuated by anxiety-ridden, budget-driven pastors and politicians, but the Exciting, Vibrant, Intimate, Brave, Edgy, Deliberate God of the Ages, Who, without question or reservation, loves ALL people with clarity and passion and Who gives dignity and inestimable value to ALL.

7. See Beyond: that we be men and women who can see beyond the limitations we set for ourselves and the limitations others set for us (usually in “love”).

* no pressure boys

October 11, 2017

Where do you get your ideas?

by Rod Smith

You may sometimes wonder where I find the ideas I write about.

I am frequently asked, “How do you do that everyday?”

Let me tell you:

This week I have been writing about my dad and the lessons I learned and have tried to learn from his life.


Well, one of my best friends and fellow expat, Nolan Smith (no relation) is in Durban this week because his father, Angus Smith, has just died. Nolan got to South Africa in time to see his dad and got to comfort him and to be with him during his final moments.

Nolan sent me a text yesterday and I called and we greeted each other as we often do with, “This is Rod Smith from Red Hill” to which he may have or may have not replied “This is Nolan Smith from Durban North.” Before long, as Nolan expressed thoughts about his loss I was crying my eyes out while trying to negotiate the Indianapolis traffic and I had to end the call.

The power of fathering and friendship and how our lives connect is foremost on my mind this week. Now you know why.

October 9, 2017

What did you learn from your father?

by Rod Smith

Nine things I learned from my father – and some of them not too well:

  • “There, but for the Grace of God, go I.” This he said when seeing anyone in a tight spot, self imposed or not.
  • “What if it was us, Mavis?” This was his appeal to my mother who tended to want to watch expenses more than he did.
  • Radical hospitality. Stories of our father opening our home to strangers were legendary.
  • “Make your words soft and sweet in case you have to eat them.” He used this when I was judgmental or harsh.
  • “Don’t carry your fish in a violin case.” My father despised all pretension.
  • “Build bridges; don’t burn them.” My father feared cut-offs.
  • “A man who is going the wrong way down a one-way street already knows it – he needs help turning around.” Forever benevolent, my father championed the underdog.
  • “Rather be fooled because you trusted too much than because you trusted too little.” And, sadly, he was frequently duped.
  • “If the child needs milk the child needs milk – milk is more important to that child than the money is to me.” He’d open his grocery shop at all hours of the night and give milk to the mother of a hungry baby.

What did you learn from yours. Let me know.  


October 8, 2017

Happiness is one thing that doesn’t “follow the money”….,

by Rod Smith

The Mercury – Monday

“I just want to be happy.”

I hear it over and over again – usually with a little whine in the tone.

It’s often whimpered as if happiness is some sort of award or something that may descend upon a person who is in the right place at the right time.

I hear it uttered as if happiness is being doled out somewhere and it’s just SO UNFAIR that others somewhere are getting it.

Truth is, you have more chance of being struck by lightening than you have being struck by happiness.

Happiness has no victims.

It’s a by-product. It grows out of purposeful living.

Happiness is out of control – even to the rich and powerful.

You may have noticed its penchant for playing hide and seek with the rich and powerful.

It’s yours when you fight and win the good fight over trying to be happy. It’s yours when you engage purposes greater than yourself, your pleasures, and appetites.

The road to happiness is often paved with difficulty and things you may think will never deliver any joy.

It hides from the lazy, from the self-indulgent, the entitled, the spoiled, the whiner, but embraces those seeking justice and authenticity and doing what is good and right by others.

Ironically happiness often escapes the rich and makes its home with the poor, the humble.

Oddly, it’s one thing that doesn’t, as it is said, “follow the money.”

October 5, 2017

Weekend superhero

by Rod Smith

The world is disturbed by threats of nuclear war. There have been horrific mass shootings, race riots, and re-emergences of violent extremes.

Entire regions of the world have been destroyed by hurricanes and earthquakes. Millions are homeless because of severe weather and millions more live as refugees fleeing oppressive political circumstances.

May we (you and I) deploy our most powerful individual forces. As limited as we each may be, the world needs a few superheroes and we can each in our own way be one:

  • Design and commit specific, routine acts of kindness and generosity. Make them pointed, uniquely tailored for someone in need. If possible, make your target an enemy and make your act anonymous. The “routine” will help us form healing habits. The “enemy” element will transform us into fine-tuned agents of grace

  • Extend your immediate community by embracing the stranger, the sojourner, the person on the fringe. Resist the urge to create him or her into your own image by expecting your guest to conform to your ways or to convert to your ways. Superhero hospitality accepts people exactly as they are.

  • In the spirit of St. Francis, indeed a superhero, may we seek to console and to serve rather than to be consoled and to be served. I know, I know – it wasn’t supposed to be a direct quotation.

October 4, 2017

Mantra….take your pick

by Rod Smith

The Mercury – Monday

Monday morning mantras – take your pick – I will be using them all this week….

• I will use every encounter to learn and to grow as a person

• I can learn from all other people no matter what their age or status or level of education

• I am neither inferior nor superior to anyone on the planet no matter who or what they are

• Every action has an equal and opposite reaction especially among people who are emotionally connected through love or rejection

• My response to what occurs is more important than what occurs

• Rapid reactions to the actions of others usually fuel later regret

• A rigid reaction is usually unnecessary as almost everything within communities has some room for negotiation

• It is almost always possible for a “win-win” to result in all relationship dilemmas and I am going to help people move towards that by doing so myself

• Healthy people willingly engage in necessary conflict in order to better understand each other, better love each other, and create circumstances for all to enjoy greater freedom

• Love and control cannot coexist in the same relationship – if you have to manipulate and control, it is not love even if you say it is.

October 3, 2017

Are we normal?

by Rod Smith

Are we normal?

“Why be normal?” was bandied about years ago on bumper stickers and the like (often, you may remember, it was posted upside down).

One day seven-year-old Thulani asked me if we were “normal.”

A lot streamed through my head (before WiFi it “raced”):

….white South African single male adopts Zimbabwean baby we live in Indianapolis I’m older than all the boy’s friends’ dads and I am single every few weeks we jump on a plane the boy’s chosen grandmother is the whitest woman you’ll ever meet all that white hair and makeup OF COURSE WE ARE NORMAL!*

But, I reply with a question.

“What do you think?”

“We are NOT normal dad,” he says. I brace myself for his explanation.

“Our front gate doesn’t latch….. and we have a truck….” he says.

*this is how normal people write streaming

October 2, 2017

What t’weens’ and teens’ parents really want….

by Rod Smith

What your parents really want from you and for you if you are a tween or a teen….

• A window into your experience no matter what activities you are engaged in. Tell us about it, the people, joys, stresses, and, share your insights. Watching you grow into an accomplished, fuller person is among our chief delights. When you shut us out it’s painful for us and limiting for you. Closing off or shutting down is NOT a necessary part of growing up.

• Your freedom is very important to us and when you are trapped or cornered by friends and by some of the drama that comes along with being part of a community it can be as painful for us as it is for you. Open the window a little so we be with you in tough times.

• When you are in a relationship, romantic or casual, where you are not treated with great respect or where you do not treat others with great respect it can be as painful for us as it is for you. Please, let us in.

• Your involvement in things that interest you is very important. We also want you to face challenges to try things that don’t immediately interest you. Staying with what you know can limit you from even greater joys and discoveries.

October 1, 2017

Dangerous men….

by Rod Smith

The Mercury / Monday

Dangerous men

• He tells you how to dress and gets all moody if you don’t agree or obey. I have known men who choose their wives clothing each day or expect to be consulted each day about their clothing choices. (One woman had six really large T-shirts that he had chosen and that was it).

• He stares you down, stares you silent, and calls you stupid. Eyes are often the first means to control and THE look can be flashed in an instant – and then turned off and denied.

• He tells you when you are hungry (or not) and what you should eat (or not).

• Small differences become huge conflicts and escalate in a flash. You let him have his way or be right or win just to avoid the fallout if you don’t.

• He is different in public – most people would never guess he has a violent side.

• His favorite Bible verse is supposedly about your obedience to him.

• He tells you he knows you better than you know yourself and better than anyone else knows you.

• He lies and expects you to lie for him.

• He has moments of white hot anger, even if the dog won’t obey him.

• He keeps you away from your extended family or tries to.

• He takes your keys or purse and he’s been physically threatening – and then is innocent because you caused his behavior.

• He accuses you of unfaithfulness especially when you refuse to give him passwords to your phone or email.

• He checks up on you and tells you jealousy and love go together.

• He hates or rejects a lot of people and thinks most people are idiots.

• In the rare event you drive him, you’d think he was behind the wheel.

Before I am blasted with emails telling me women can also be dangerous (which of course they can be) the overwhelming reality is that it is usually men who are.