Archive for May, 2018

May 16, 2018

Yesterday’s column in hard copy

by Rod Smith

May 15, 2018


by Rod Smith

What do teachers seek in learners (students)? 

Young men and women who display:

  • Academic integrity which is expressed to the minutest detail in presented work.
  • The ability to tell the truth, express kindness, and display empathy towards adults and peers alike.
  • Curiosity and the willingness to engage in hard work that goes beyond minimal requirements.
  • Respectful playfulness, and the willingness to engage in the unique and blessed exchange between teacher and learner.
  • Willingness, courage, and the wisdom to self-advocate without alienating others in the process.

What does a student (learner) seek in a teacher?

Men and women who display:

  • A love of their subject, a passion for the school, and steadfast commitment to their learners.
  • Kindness and firmness toward students that is free of sentimentality.
  • An understanding of how the world works and a willingness to share that understanding with learners when it’s appropriate.
  • Empathy and compassion for those who are less motivated or who have academic challenges.
  • Instruction and conversations that are free of sarcasm and ridicule.
May 14, 2018

What do you want?

by Rod Smith

Have you ever spent time really assessing what you want? I believe What do you want? is the holiest questions we each must answer.

I hear people saying they want to be happy and useful do something meaningful with their lives and travel and teach English in an Asian country or pack fish in Alaska or write a best selling novel or, and, or…….. and on it goes.

It is the rare to find people who plan the detail and implement what they need to do to enjoy the life they say they want.

They live as if being who they really want to be and doing what they really want to do will happen by accident.

It won’t.

In relation to what you want:

  • It’s not too late. It might be too late for some things but you probably can find a parallel dream or activity that snuggles in with the one you feel you may have missed.
  • You can only legitimately want for yourself. Wanting for others make make you feel good but it is a waste of wanting and energy. Others, even your children, have want for themselves. Many parents will tell you they want their children to be happy. Your child’s happiness is his or her load but he or she is more likely to be happy if you are.
  • To want and to want deeply is not selfish. There’s no freer and happier person than the one who is doing what he or she really wants and none is as selfish as he or she who is not.
May 13, 2018

I met a superhero

by Rod Smith

On Friday of this past week I met a superhero: Eva Kor. Mrs. Kor is a holocaust survivor and former victim of Josef Mengele and his infamous and ghoulish medical tests. Now in her eighties, Eva eloquently told a spellbound audience about her imprisonment at Auschwitz with her twin sister. They were 10. She told of her many encounters with Mengele, of their eventual liberation, and her subsequent life of recovery, forgiveness, and unfathomable determination.

Here are a few almost direct quotations. When your heart is simultaneously grieving and rejoicing as mine was, it’s difficult to take perfect notes:

  • Never give up on yourself or your dreams.
  • Ask yourself everyday what you can do to make the world a better place.
  • Do whatever is possible to get rid of all prejudice in your life.
  • Discover for yourself that you have the power to forgive.
  • Refuse to be a good victim. Rather forgive. Forgiveness is the best revenge. If I could forgive Mengele I knew I could forgive everyone.
  • Forgiveness is the best revenge: it works and it has no side effects.
  • Forgiveness is about you and it has nothing to do with the perpetrators.
  • People who forgive are at peace with the world.
May 12, 2018


by Rod Smith

The Mercury – Wednesday

I am thoroughly convinced that there are always good reasons to have hope.

No matter how dire or conflicted the circumstance, no matter how bleak the prognosis, while there is life, and even beyond it, there remain reasons to be hopeful.

I’ve seen hope in action.

I’ve seen painful family scenarios, the most estranged of siblings, the most obstinate of personalities, turn, and find previously unimagined degrees of humility, and move in healthier directions.

But, evil abounds. It tries to rob us of hope.

Of course men and women are capable of inflicting much hurt and destruction, but I believe that the good in this world by far outweighs the evil.

There is goodness, kindness, and benevolence latent in every man, woman, and child, and I believe it far exceeds any impulse toward hate and destruction.

And while I am well aware that this idea will be considered absurd in some circles, and heresy in others, I’d suggest that when a lonely woman reaches again for alcohol, or the deprived man engages in illicit behavior, or an adult or teenager self-destructs, these behaviors are desperate acts of prayer, desperate attempts at sanity, desperate attempts to relieve pain and even restore hope.

May 10, 2018

Readers respond about their parents

by Rod Smith

“I read your article to the lady who moved to be close to her mom and it struck a chord about taking on a role that is not yours to take on.

“In 1967 I was 12-years-old and my mom died of cancer. For the next three years I was a complete emotional crutch for my Dad. He battled to cope and I had to go everywhere with him. Every week we went to put flowers on the grave. I struggled to make friends and spent school holidays completely on my own all day. So, I actually completely missed the teenage fun years and the social interaction with my peers. When I was 16 he remarried but actually got angry because I preferred going to parties with friends and girls than helping him rebuild a car.”

Tony – Durban

“Thank you so much for your response to the letter about the mother. The relationship I have with mother is not healthy, she want to be a priority in my life over my children. Your response made it clear for me to understand what is happening and how to handle it by understanding my position and align my priorities in the right order. Thank you again, your column help a lot of people like me who need spiritual help in silence.”

Anon by request


May 10, 2018

To the daughter from yesterday’s column;

by Rod Smith

• You have taken on a role that’s not yours to take on. This is one of the reasons you will often read that people should resist making big decisions after a traumatic experience. You can comfort and support and love your mother without having to live near her or become her companion. Try to avoid caring too much. Yes, it is possible. You are “caring too much” if your caring for someone else consumes you.

• Your son, and not your mother, is your primary commitment. You will be better equipped to love and care for your mother when you re-align your priorities. It’s care first for yourself, then for your son, then for you mother. If you don’t take appropriate care of yourself you will not be able to care for anyone.  While you are attempting to rescue your mother you will be unable to care for your son in a healthy manner.

• Your mother (and you) will take years to be fully functional again. The ending of a fifty-year marriage will require much grief and understanding among all the members of your family. It is not surprising there are some boundary confusions at this stage of her journey. Adjust them now before they become even more entrenched and solidified

May 6, 2018

Abandoning mother?

by Rod Smith

Somewhat of a theme has emerged of late in my private practice. I’m seeing several parents, particularly mothers, who have difficulty treating their adult sons and daughters and their families as whole, separate entities from themselves. They appear to want mothering to continue when their mothering is over.

Yes. Mothering ends.  I’ve written on this theme often in this column.

It is as if the adult women are saying, “I raised them to have wings but I did not expect them to use the wings,” or, “I gave them wings but they need me to show them how to use them and where to fly.”

I have compassion for these parents. It is pronounced for those who have lost a spouse to death or divorce and who then see the natural separation their adult sons and daughters rightfully and appropriately enjoy as another evidence of abandonment.

If the adult sons or daughters are prone to guilt they will quickly capitulate to the pressure to take care of mother and/or come under her control. This will often expose stresses and stimulate conflict within the marriage.

It’s even more complicated when both spouses each have a parent who inflicts a couple with such expectations.

Am I suggesting abandoning mom? Of course I am not.

Remain loving, remain out of control, and remain connected. That’s what loving adults do. 

Write to

May 6, 2018

Essential equipment to be an adult

by Rod Smith

The Mercury – Thursday

Essential equipment for adulthood

A humble heart. A playful spirit. An eye for beauty. An affirming vocabulary.

A thoughtful mind, an assertive voice, and a strong backbone – and the willingness to use them.

A role in a family – and the willingness to embrace it. A place in a community – and the willingness to exercise it.

A supply of “thank you” cards, a fine pen, a supply of postage stamps – and the willingness to use them.

Punctuality. Trustworthiness. Respect for others.

An ability to discern and appreciate the impact our lives have on each other and the willingness to make repair when repair is necessary.

The capacity to think ahead, remember the past, and yet also enjoy the present.

The capacity to forgive and to forget when forgetting is helpful and to forgive and remember when remembering is necessary.

The capacity to be clear with others and yet to know what can remain unsaid.

The capacity to know what battles to embrace and which to ignore.