Archive for March, 2018

March 28, 2018

I have perfect nails, now

by Rod Smith

When I was a child there were days when every finger on both my hands would bleed from my biting and ripping my nails. I’d bite and rip until shiny puddles of blood and spit would pool in what was left of my fingertips. I’d make fists to hide the damage or tuck the wounded digits into my school pants pockets where the blood and spit would stain the pockets. If I pulled the pockets from the trousers they’d be a dull red or a darkened brown on the white cloth depending on the stain’s age. They’d look like a handkerchief applied to a bleeding nose. It was a painful habit and I was ashamed of my fingers and I hid my hands. The shame and pain did not stop this incessant indulgence which persisted well into my adulthood. My dad”s only and repeated remedy, which was never acted upon, was the threat to apply some bitter substance he’d known as a child. Mother never referred to my nail-biting but to sometimes say, “Don’t bite your nails,” and, “If you swallow a nail you’ll puncture your lungs.” Despite the graphic image of me exploding like a punctured balloon her exhortations were unsuccessful.

March 27, 2018

The Art of Leadership

by Rod Smith

I read, think, observe, leadership a lot. I’ve seen dismal attempts at it and men and women who seem to fully understand its art. Here are a few observations. Please, send me yours. I am always interested in new perspectives and approaches others have found useful:

  • Having your name on the top of the list or possessing the title leader does not make you a leader. You are a leader if your constituents are following you or are doing what you are commissioned to lead your constituents to do or to be.
  • If you are authentically leading your group, church, or business, and you are doing it well, you will sometimes (even often) feel a strong sense of isolation. It comes with the call of authentic leadership. It’s lonely. It is unlikely you are leading well if you are not facing some, if not strong, opposition. Authentic leaders stimulate necessary imbalance and some humans, those who set in their ways, will naturally resist such provocation for growth and change and may even portray you as an enemy.
  • Your own growth as a person within your family (all of your family) will do more for your effectiveness as a leader than anything you implement at work or at your church or wherever it is that you are supposed to be the leader.
March 27, 2018

Prayers for our children

by Rod Smith

Prayers and desires for our children, young and older….

  • That they may find useful, positive passions, and spend their energies on things they really love.
  • That they may make their livings from using their talents.
  • That they may find and enjoy deep and lasting reciprocal friendships.
  • That they may have mutual and equal and respectful relationships with everyone they love and know.
  • That they may neither be intimidated nor intimidate others no matter who they are.
  • That they may know they are deeply loved and respected by their immediate and extended families to whom they owe nothing but the return of healthy love and respect.
  • That they may be enduring students despite their academic achievements and patient teachers when others are trying to learn from them.
  • That they may love powerfully and be loved powerfully in relationships that are free and open and devoid of jealously and pettiness.
  • That they may grow into generous and kind people who are trusted for their integrity and goodness.
  • That they may have each other’s backs while risking the natural urge to rescue each other from self-made difficulties.
  • That they may develop goals and ambitions that far surpass making a good living but that include serving others and enhancing the lives of people whom they don’t know and may never meet.
March 27, 2018

Other people’s stories

by Rod Smith

People often find other people’s true stories inspiring.

Please tell me your story if any of the following topics apply to you. Try to keep it to 200 or fewer words and include permission for me to run it in You and Me.

I will not print your name unless you specifically indicate you want your name included.

  • You left your spouse for another man or woman and it did, or did not, turn out well.
  • You have seen a radical change in a family member for good or for ill.
  • You were abandoned in a marriage but came back from the trauma to live really fully and well, or, if you never did really recover.
  • You are an adult who was adopted as a child and finding your birth parent(s) was, or was not, a rich and rewarding experience.
  • You left South Africa to live in another country but returned.
  • You have witnessed amazing acts of grace and forgiveness and generosity.
  • You have worked for the most difficult boss in the world and survived.
  • You have witnessed or experienced a miraculous act of friendship.
  • You found love in a most unexpected place or from a most unexpected source.
March 25, 2018


by Rod Smith

I have the joy and privilege of traveling this week – alone. My sons’ schools “spring breaks” do not line up with mine, and so they’re home and I have just ended a long trek to Curitiba, Brazil via Toronto and Sao Paulo.

Indianapolis was hit this weekend with a giant snowstorm and we sat in the plane on the runway for three hours waiting for the plane to be de-iced before we could head for Toronto. So the journey didn’t start well.

After a long night awake on the nine-hour flight to Sao Paulo and while passengers were emptying the overhead bins and waiting to de-plane, my name was announced over the intercom. I was asked to immediately identify myself to the gate agent. Mine was the only name called.

Connecting flight change, I thought. What amazed me was that in my tired state during the short walk from row 37 to the front of the plane my anxiety triggered. My sons have been in an accident. The house has burned. Your sister’s ill. Your brother needs you. You’re back on the next flight. Calm down, I told myself.

“Your flights been rebooked, Mr. Smith,” said the Air Canada representative, “you’re going to Curitiba three hours earlier than ticketed.”

HALT – Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired: messes with our thinking.

March 21, 2018

Keeping healthy

by Rod Smith

The Mercury / Tuesday

We are all immersed in an endless connection of triangles, the unavoidable building blocks of all relationships.

Our individual challenge is to keep them healthy. If you, in your corner, are as healthy (high-functioning) as you can be, and I, in my corner, am as healthy as I can be, we are positioned to ward off the dis-ease (the lack of ease) that comes with being unsuitably “cornered” by less than healthy men and women.

Keep the inevitable triangle as healthy as possible by:

• Knowing who you are and being unafraid to express it

• Knowing what you want and being unafraid to pursue it

• Refusing to engage in gossip of any kind

• Refusing to engage in negative talk about others

• Listening, really listening, not waiting to reply or formulating a reply while another is speaking

• Keeping short accounts with others by apologizing and forgiving regularly and efficiently

• Thanking others for kindnesses observed and kindnesses received

• Opening doors (literally and figuratively) for others and being willing for others to get the credit you could legitimately claim

• Valuing relationships over being right and over so-called winning.

March 20, 2018

Considering an affair, are you?

by Rod Smith

If you’re toying with the idea of an extramarital affair or with the idea of cheating on your partner, may I caution you? Affairs are seductive. They are seductive, not because they woo you into false intimacy, but because affairs lure you away from your crucible of authentic growth, your committed relationship. This is where maturity and fulfillment are available.

An illicit relationship won’t teach you anything worth learning. It will reveal you as one who lacks integrity. It’s a character issue. It’s not about getting the sex you need or the companionship you crave.

If your marriage is not working an affair won’t enduringly help.

The one who is toying with the idea of an extramarital affair is unlikely to even read, let alone heed these words. Attraction is powerful. It’ blinds. The victims of infidelity can seem propelled on a course of self-destruction. The heat of the chase, the heat of the moment, the rush of the deceit and the intricacies of the cover-up can feel like amazing love. It’s not.

Go home. Make right with your spouse, or do whatever you need to do.

An affair won’t heal a lonely heart or help your troubled marriage. It’ll further damage both.

March 18, 2018

The new work week….

by Rod Smith

The Mercury / Monday

Setting the tone for the workweek ahead….

• Clarify why you are at work in the first place: you are there to earn a living, to support your family, and to do your job to the best of your ability.

• You are not at work to check Facebook, sit on your phone, send text messages that are not work-related, play games, make friends, gossip, or be underhanded (speak ill of, undermine) about your workplace in any manner.

• Mind your own business. Focus on what you are doing and not what others may or may not be doing.

• Tell the truth to your workmates, supervisors, suppliers, and customers. If you are working where telling the truth is difficult then it is time to reassess your career.

• Be punctual, use no profanities (no matter what kind of job you hold) and never help yourself to anything that is not yours or for your rightful use.

• Don’t cheat – not with hours, reimbursements, sick days, leave time, or mileage expenses.

• Don’t speak or write anything about anyone that you have not first said directly to him or to her. There are extreme circumstances where this will not apply. In general, speak to people and not about them.

• Don’t talk about your ex, your surgery, your ailments, or your in-laws. No one is interested even if they pretend they are.

March 17, 2018

I will call her Mary

by Rod Smith

I’ll call her Mary. She is a woman with a highly specialized career. Her work, traditionally dominated by men, takes her to multiple countries every year for high-level negotiations with government officials. Mary is known as a force to encounter and is widely respected. She is seldom intimidated by the challenges of her career. Mary and her husband run a home. Their high-school aged daughters, like her parents, are high achievers. By all appearances the marriage is solid.

Mary’s parents live within blocks of their daughter and they have not seen each other much at all in years. They wee her husband’s family a lot.

This is a source of great pain for Mary’s family. Cordiality rules, but there is no vulnerability, no free exchange of ideas, no joy. The tenseness is palpable when the generations meet for more than an hour.

“I can talk to boardrooms full of scary people without a problem,” says Mary, “but meeting my parents undoes me! I cannot put my finger on it.”

I am reminded of family therapist Rabbi Ed Friedman who claims it is impossible to have long-term emotional wellness while a person is disconnected from significant people their family of origin.

Deep joy (and some pain) awaits Mary as she determines to remove the blockage she experiences but cannot now name.

March 13, 2018


by Rod Smith

Things I remind myself about my children – please join me in my journey:

• Their lives are larger at their ages than mine was at their ages. Of course, they’re starting later and the world is a very different place. Their platforms are more complex, and more dynamic than mine was and, I admit, I am somewhat limited in my ability to identify with it. This means I should not be taken aback when I am blinded to possibilities and experiences they see and want to embrace. Rejecting an idea or a possibility simply because I couldn’t envision it is a good way to widen a gap that is mine, and not theirs, to bridge.

• While the world is a very different place than it was in my formative years, some things remain unchanged. Good manners, using please and thank you, looking people in the eyes, standing up for adults, dealing honestly with money and time, working hard, and displaying empathy in the face of those who are suffering – are values that cannot be discarded just because the world is faster paced than it once was. One of my jobs as a parent is to encourage, even enforce, some of these things if necessary.

• I am enough for my sons and the only dad they will ever need.