Archive for June, 2018

June 28, 2018

Feeling it…..

by Rod Smith

For as much as I have traveled and for as much as my sons have traveled I am feeling anxious today. I am very anxious.

Nate, my youngest son (16) is setting off tomorrow for his first solo flight.

He’s headed to my niece and her husband and their family in Terrigal, Australia.

To eliminate possible complications I booked his journey to include only one plane change on both his outward and return journey and that change will be in Houston, Texas. I’ve photocopied his passport, checked and re-checked his Electronic Travel Authority, done his laundry, and I am in the process of packing his bags.

Every possible and reasonable travel snafu, like extended delays, cancelled flights, lost baggage, and inquisitions at borders, has visited my swirling head and it usually happens around three in the morning.

I will breathe a sigh of relief (as I know his brother will, too) when we hear he’s landed and safe in the home of beloved family.

So, the next time you read my work and I am getting on some parent’s case about anxiety or over-functioning for his or her children, feel free to drop me a reminder about what it was like for me to send Nate off to Australia – and I will back off.

June 28, 2018


by Rod Smith

When you’re annoyed and if you’re anything like me:

·      You probably can’t access the most thinking, helpful, objective, capacities of your brain in that very moment. I can’t, usually. That’s fine. Being annoyed occasionally comes with the human package. If you can just take a moment to tell yourself that it is in these moments that we are most positioned and most vulnerable to say the “wrong” thing, to express unnecessary cynicism, spread negativity, and to hurt people we need and people we love. Such results are not usually helpful. Hold onto yourself. This too shall pass. I try to do this. Occasionally I’m successful.

·      When you look back (hours, days, weeks later) on what it was that was the source of your annoyance  (if you recall it at all), know that you are quite healthy if it causes you somewhat of a chuckle. I experience this sometimes. Distance and time and objectivity are remarkable tools for growth and healing. If we are honest enough to allow it.

I try to learn from the things that annoy me. I try to see them as mirrors into what’s happening in the deepest recesses of my soul. Occasionally I have found some elements of growth and maturity. What gets my goat, I’ve painfully discovered, is NEVER about someone else, it’s always MY goat.

Sometimes I find I am as immature as ever.

Sometimes, on reflection, I can tell there’s actually been some growth.

June 26, 2018

The power of a really good friendship

by Rod Smith

He or she is able to sit, stand, walk, and rest with you when times are really wonderful and when times are not.

He or she is almost always able to finish your sentences and complete your thoughts but chooses not to. Similarly, he or she is able to predict most of your moods, needs, and wants while simultaneously offering you all the room in the world to be unpredictable and spontaneous.

You notice, after years, that he or she has been a transformative influence in your life even though that was not the reason you became friends; you were not looking to be “fixed” or changed but it happened and is happening because your lives have touched.

He or she is unafraid to tell you where you may have blind spots and shortfalls but  delivers the message with such grace and kindness it feels like you are hearing really good news or discovering something wonderful about yourself and your life.

He or she is almost always excited to see you no matter how many times you cross paths and no matter how intertwined your lives are.He or she remembers things you’ve talked about and remembers things that are important to you.

He or she opens possibilities for you, extends your friendship circle, and is not possessive or jealous.

June 23, 2018

Grace and grace…..

by Rod Smith

The Mercury – Monday (getting ahead of deadlines)


While life as we know it is impossible without Divine Grace, Grace extended to all. I am particularly interested in the interpersonal grace we each can generously offer all other people, from intimates to total strangers.

Yes, we can be agents of grace.

I have seen it powerfully at work for many years.

It includes:

• Giving others a very wide berth, room to make mistakes, to be opinionated, to be socially clumsy, without my interference or my thinking, feeling I should offer my guidance, correction, or opinion.

• Extending “grace-in-reverse” by not allowing any person’s past errors, tough, dark, or even sordid history, to hinder my perceptions, my experience of who and what they are in the present. This acknowledges people really can grow and change.

• Allowing others to own their story and to tell it in their way, without interruption, without uninvited interpretation, and certainly without being “one-upped” by something from my own life, something usually bigger, stronger, better, or more dramatic.

• Forgiving from the outset, without necessarily receiving an apology or explanation, and for that forgiveness to be unconditional and complete.

• Exercising radical hospitality. This is embracing fully (not limited to a hug) others who are not like us!

How do I know about such grace?

It’s been offered to me, time and again. The challenge is to give it to others.

June 21, 2018

If only these simple things were a way-of-life

by Rod Smith

Things I really wish were a way of life in our various communities:

  • Mutual respect expressed in the common courtesies of “please” and “thank you” and in  greetings as simple as a friendly “hello” and “good morning.”

  • Handwritten thank you notes and cards for kindnesses received.

  • Offering seats on busses and trains to anyone and everyone even a day older than you are.

  • A helping hand with opening and closing doors or carrying packages.

  • Friendly chit-chat with strangers in queues or waiting rooms or in airline departure areas.

  • Respect for teachers and respect for elders and a general sense of humility rather than entitlement.

  • Listening without interrupting.

  • People who clean up after themselves.

  • Children who do not interrupt adults when adults are speaking.

A readers’s response:

“Your column this morning brought memories of my late father flooding back. His way of life was exactly the way you describe you wish it would be today. He was kind, caring, polite, and greeted everyone, no matter who they were. He stood up in buses and trains for anyone requiring a seat. My sister and I were brought up to behave in exactly the same way and it certainly has not done either of us any harm. Unfortunately, I only had him in my life for my first fourteen years but he lives in my heart always.

“A few years ago I was given a gift by one of my niece’s school friends. I was amazed at how fascinated she was having received a hand written ‘thank you’ note from me, delivered by post, to her home address. Apparently, my note was the only one she had ever received in all her twenty-one years. This saddened me. There is something so personal and special about writing or receiving a letter written on beautiful notepaper.

“I agree with you Rod, how wonderful life would be if we all adopted this way of life.”

Thank you for your beautiful letter.

I am often amused when my sons’ good manners are regarded with suspicion!

June 20, 2018

Our story – live, for you?

by Rod Smith


Thanks for your interest in the Smith Family Story. Thulani (20) and I travel and speak about our lives and topics relating to adoption, healthy family relationships, healthy communication, and race. My second son Nathanael (16) usually travels with us. Speaking to an audience (although he has) is not (yet) his thing.

I am a single Caucasian South African, reared under Apartheid. My two African American sons, neither of whom did I expect to parent, have been with me since each was newborn. Together, we have traveled extensively, upwards of about 30 countries, where I have taught Family Therapy.

During the summer of 2014 while we were in Swaziland and in South Africa. Thulani (16) began, quite spontaneously, to share the platform with me.

Thulani’s ease with an audience, his comfort in telling his moving story, opened my eyes to the power of my intentionally sharing the platform with him in the future.

Our preferred topics relate to Race, Adoption, Empowering Adopted Children, and Parenting from Strength, Love, and Power, and Trans-racial Adoption and Parenting.

My daily newspaper editorial column, which focuses on healthy family relationships and healthy living, has appeared in South Africa’s, The Mercury, for the past 17 years, making it one of the longest running editorials in that country.

We live in Indianapolis, Indiana, USA.

Our presentation style is very relaxed. We do not dump a rehearsed message. We are highly process-oriented – working with the people and topic at hand. I have addressed crowds of 5 to 5000 and Thulani and I together have addressed thousands of people, adolescents and adults, in South Africa.

Our preferred one-time events are those that help YOU raise funds or awareness for a beloved cause. Our fees include travel, accommodation, and a negotiated honorarium. We also do weekend camps, preach at churches, and teach Sunday Schools.

Please contact me at or call USA 317 694 8669. You may also reach me through


June 18, 2018

Parenting teenagers….. observations

by Rod Smith

Note to self, of course):

• He or she who escalates has already lost, be it the parent or teenager. Ramping up the stakes, intensifying emotions, blitzing ultimatums, and offering irrational choices, all suggest it’s time for outside help. The one doing the ramping (parent or teen) will probably be who will have to apologize.

• The parent or teen who magnifies or exaggerates observations, conflicts, or issues (“the sky is falling”) is probably the one who’ll be sizzled as things escalate. Inner turmoil perplexes judgement. Calmness, objectivity, and dialogue, win over dramatic displays. He or she who steps aside to calm down usually prevails, be it adult or child.

• The parent or teen with the ability to compartmentalize will find it to be a life-saver (because it helps day-to-day functioning). He or she who habitually compartmentalizes is probably in denial. Losing sight of the “big picture” can be helpful in the moment but is seldom helpful in the long term.

• The parent who seeks to teach or preach under all circumstances may be better served by brick-wall-head-knocking. The parent who asks “what can I learn” and “what will increase my capacity to love” will be transformed by parenting. This requires the humility to acknowledge that some growth may be required on all fronts, not just the child’s.

June 16, 2018

Writing a column: things I’ve learned

by Rod Smith

“You and Me” is probably the longest running daily column by one writer in South Africa. Although no one appears to be able to confirm this, no one has suggested the name of another column that has lasted longer. The column was suggested and named by then Mercury editor, Denis Pather in March, 2001. Although we met for the first time in his office when I mooted the idea of writing for his paper, we have been friends since.

I asked for a “weekly” spot. He suggested it run daily.

Within the hour of our second meeting a headshot was taken, a design was confirmed, a price discussed and established, and “You and Me” was up and running within the next two days.

I have learned from the experience of appearing daily on your editorial page for 17 years:

• Readers develop the habit of reading the column and become faithful followers with many telling me it’s the only article they consistently read.

• Readers love to see their letters in print even after often ruthless editing. People tend to write very long letters, include far too many unnecessary details, and cover too many issues. My job is to boil each letter down to one central issue without losing the tone or the essence of the original letter.

• The smallest pieces of helpful advice can become cornerstones of change. It’s amazing to hear what sticks. It is often not what I regarded as important.

• Readers are often seeking “outside” permission to do what it is they want to do or to do what they know is right and good and wholesome.

• Some action or suggestion that feels radical to the reader may not seem radical to me. This often cuts both ways.

• Every reader has something to teach or show me, especially the readers who take the time to chastise me for my strong opinions or for my tone. These are often people expressing what I really need to hear.

• Readers sometimes express that they know me, and I often feel as if I know them, even when we know we have never met. The daily “meeting” with my writing in the newspaper gives a sense of intimacy (as if I am my work) albeit over thousands of miles. Many write about my children and ask about them with such loving warmth that is often moving.

Here, paraphrased, is something a woman said to me at a public meeting in South Africa in 2013 which made it all worth it: “I resented you when I was 15. My mother would cut you out and put you on my mirror. I grew up with you! Now I’m cutting you out for my own daughter.”

I was amazed to be inducted into the Circle of Valor (2013) for community service  in a community in which I have not lived in for close to three decades. It was my joy to travel the South Africa to receive this award. I think it speaks to the power of technology, the power of the written word, and the longing we all have to belong, to be recognized, and to have a voice and have it be heard.

June 14, 2018

I’m sad; not unhappy

by Rod Smith

The Mercury / in response to yesterday

“How can someone who has everything, a beautiful loving family, a loving partner, and living in a beautiful home with all her animals be so sad. Not unhappy, but sad!”

I’d suggest a few sources for potential pursuit:

You may have a purely medical issue. A doctor may be able to help.

You may have stored uncried tears from an interruption in life: a loss, unwanted change, an event you faced by “pulling yourself together” when falling apart would have been useful. Unexpressed or ignored emotion doesn’t dissipate, it ferments. Then, it drives and steers to territories often unhelpful. Dig deep; go back years. There’s no expiry date when it comes to grief ignored. A good psychologist could assist.

For all the love you enjoy in your family and in your home and with your animals perhaps you’re missing being part of an intimate peer community. A group where lives deeply meld and mutually discover added support and meaning. A good church could help.

Finally, sadness, while uncomfortable, may not be an enemy. It’s often the food of the novelist or the impetus for chasing a worthwhile cause. I look forward to hearing how you perhaps will capitalize on yours and use it as transformative fuel.

The picture (of course it not going to appear in The Mercury):

I finally have the full set of Rhino Ties from TAFT University. Thank you Toni List Ricker and Sophie Ricker for these remarkable gifts.

June 14, 2018

The greatest gifts we bring

by Rod Smith

The Mercury / Thursday

The greatest gifts we can offer each other as spouses, intimates, friends, and as colleagues:

• The truth as we perceive it: knowing that events, feelings, circumstances, history, and responses to everything are in the heart and the eye of the beholder. Everyone has his or her own set of lenses, lenses colored and distorted by a myriad of variables, immediate and historical, which are shaped by rational and irrational life-experiences. Even though we may not agree on the truth and its precise shape, offering another truth, as he or she knows it, is a gift of love.

• The time to be heard: knowing that being heard and understood do not necessarily mean agreement. Hearing, too, is in the heart of the hearer. Everyone’s ears are filtered through a myriad of variables and experiences, some immediate and some ages old, but the gift of love we each can offer is the willingness to put aside differences and listen.

• The freedom and space to be distinct: knowing that there exists a strong pull toward sameness in thinking, feeling, and interpreting, and a strong pull toward togetherness. It’s a gift of immense value when we open our hearts to those in our spheres of influence and encourage the love and the exercise of freedom divinely imparted to every person.