Archive for August, 2018

August 26, 2018

To Educators, everywhere

by Rod Smith

Etched in the Heart

To the Teachers I Know And Those I Don’t

Thousands of lives are enhanced because you demanded your students do their homework, tell truth, stand up straight, and look you in the eye.

You showed them how, and when, to use commas, solve x, and how to exercise and care for their bodies and run on and on and on, but not with their sentences. You helped little hands measure, cut, paste, and draw, and, then, when they got a little older and their hands were a little bigger, you taught them how to march and blow a bugle or beat a drum and pass a baton in relay races and score touchdowns and dance and sing on a stage to crowds of proud and adoring parents.

You showed them why bullying is not a good idea, and why it is wise to share, and unwise to dig in your nose, but wise to cover your mouth when you cough, and to turn away from others and say “excuse me” when you sneeze.

And to wash your hands. Always, wash your hands.

You taught them the power of “please” and “thank you,” and calculus, algebra, and pi, and that “i comes before e, except after c” and how to apologize and to play fair and how to make a paper doll and a paper airplane.

You told them about the planets and volcanoes and why Rome fell and about the International Date Line and salmon in Washington and Oil in Texas and corn in the Midwest and why the Big Apple is called the Big Apple.

You told them about the painful history of our nation and of its victories.

When they told you something was unfair you told them, as if for the very first time it has ever been said: life is not fair.

They cried on your shoulder when a crush crushed them, or a friend betrayed them, or a parent walked out never to return. They cried on your shoulder when you stood with them at a graveside as a body was lowered into the waiting ground; the body of a friend, or a dad, mom, brother, sister. They cried on your shoulder, yes, your shoulder, because they trusted you.

Why? Why did and do they trust you?

They trusted you because, because you trusted them. They trusted you because you had an ocean of patience when you taught them and you demonstrated the necessity of humility, generosity, kindness, and grit, and why we need verbs and adverbs and conjunctions and why we learn things we will never need once we leave school.

A thousand times, when they asked, “Can I use the restroom?” you said, “I don’t know, CAN you?”

Yes, teacher, yes, head of school. Yes, principal, librarian, coach, administrator, referee, custodian, lunchroom lady, superintendent of schools. They trust you because you taught them to play and to win with grace. You taught them that when they lose they could applaud the opposition and lose with courage. You taught them to hold their heads high in defeat or victory.

You taught them to look life in the eye and not back down.

You taught them to forgive when people didn’t deserve it and to love the unlovely, and to respect their elders and to protect children.

You taught them the difference between “lend” and “borrow” and you corrected them when they said “me and my friends” when they really meant, “my friends and I.” You taught them to love books and stories. You showed them they are made of the same stuff as the greatest writers and heroic sports figures world has ever known. You showed them that they too could win a Nobel Prize, the Booker Prize, a Pulitzer or the Superbowl.

You told them they had it in them to be astronauts, artists, acrobats, architects or all of them all at the same time.

You gave them the greatest gift of all: your faith, your trust. You believed in them and, by believing in them, you paved the way for them to believe in themselves. You showed them that if they did none of these things, like write a best seller or score the winning touchdown or get a call from the Oslo and the Nobel committee, their value and worth as humans was unsullied, because they were loved and treasured for who they are and not because they could spin a fine sentence or write a water-tight thesis or slam dunk a ball or run like the wind or play a piano like Beethoven.

When a woman or a man who is not your mom or your dad teaches you to tie a shoelace or how to be nice or helps you read a difficult novel to the very last page and get the thrill that only reading a novel to the very last page can offer – that person gets etched into the heart of a student, forever.

And that’s you, dear Educator.

Thank you.

August 23, 2018

What do you want?

by Rod Smith

Powerful living, enduring relationships, significant work, and finding meaningful community, all begins within the individual.

It’s birthed in the very complex connections within each person’s mind, soul, and spirit.

It is within this deep place that each of us must answer the most essential question: “What do you want?” Until this question is faced and answered it is impossible to enjoy and life and find the relationships, community, and career we desire.

When each of us answers this holy question for ourselves and, although the answer will shift and change over time, the answer becomes a grid upon which we build our lives.

When this question is answered (and it can be answered in fewer than 20 words) it becomes a vision and then when we face choices that do not fit within the vision, those choices fall away. Choices that do fit within the vision of what we want and those that move us towards our greater goals become all that more appealing.

This is intentional living, and it is the antithesis of selfishness.

People who are doing what they really want to do and become the people they really want to become are transformed into the most selfless people of all.

August 19, 2018

The dangers of love

by Rod Smith

A person who loves you will expect you to find, use, enjoy your skills and talents. Your skills and talents are much easier neglect (people do it all the time). Your lover will not settle for less than your best and will offer you the same. Upping your mutual game will require courage, effort, and commitment. Avoid love if you are lazy.  

He or she will respect your separateness and will know you each come with your own unique dreams, ambitions, longings, hurts, disappointments. In love you will be comforted, inspired, challenged, but he or she will not crossover and be you. He or she will always know you are your own person with the ability and courage to be the separate person you are. It’s love, not conquering or invasion. Avoid love if you think it will mean you can avoid personal responsibility or borrow an identity.

The person who loves you will offer you, and find with you, a powerful sense of belonging. Everything will assume greater meaning. You’ll commune. You’ll be as connected as two people can be while always remaining separate and independent. If being known scares you, being loved will terrify you. Run from it. It’s not worth the growth and transformation that will be yours.

August 16, 2018

You described my husband to a T

by Rod Smith

“I had to respond to your article about Dangerous Men. This is my husband to a T, although he has not been overly violent.  I have never felt afraid. This manifested itself about four years ago, out of the blue, and I was taken completely by surprise. We are pensioners now but looking back, he has been all of those things you have described, controlling, and manipulative, family hater. I was too busy working, bringing up the kids, to let it bother me. I was never allowed any close friends and what friends I did manage to hold on to have all now left South Africa and there is just the two of us. I am glad to learn that I am not alone in such a situation, but sad really that I have never been able to reach my full potential having definitely been ‘kept down’ all these years. There is no question of leaving him now at our ages, so I will just have to try to grin and bear it.  When he does start performing I try to walk away and ignore him.”

How ever many years you have left, live large and stay out of control. It’s never too late to find your voice. Thanks for the letter.

August 15, 2018

How to behave for school (for parents)…..

by Rod Smith

In order to love their school-going children, healthy parents:

·      Create a safe home environment where no topic is off limits.

·      Trust the school and their children and therefore seldom run interference for their children.

·      Have satisfying lives outside of being parents.

·      Don’t personalize their children’s missteps and encourage honest success and legitimate failure.

·      Don’t get embroiled in their children’s peer relationships.

·      Don’t do their children’s homework for them.

·      Live truthfully so their children see truth in action.

·      De-escalate almost everything and check on facts before escalating any school issue.

·      Go first to the source when issues arise.

·      Give the school the benefit of the doubt and listen objectively to all sides. Oddly, they tend to believe adults even over their children*.

·      Permit natural consequences to follow their children’s actions*.

·      Treat teachers and administrators with respect and speak highly of professions in education.

·      Are present for their children in a world of endless distractions.

·      Write affirming emails and letters to teachers and administrators to express thanks for the investment in their children.

·      Are respectful to coaches and officials at sports events if their child’s is winning or losing.

·      Say “please” and “thank you” and “excuse me” and behave like the adults they hope their children become.

·      They mind their own business and resist gossip.

*There are always extremes where these will not apply

August 13, 2018

Dangerous men

by Rod Smith

Dangerous men are often charming in public. In private they are sarcastic and cynical, and commit private acts of control, malice, and deceit. They isolate intimates. When extended family contact is inevitable they limit, control, and monitor it. Visits with extended family are routinely bookended with intense blowups. They accuse their wives of lies, affairs, and demand unreciprocated honesty. They can pin their wives and children to the wall using dagger eyes. When feeling out of control, disobeyed, or disrespected, their malice will, without intervention, escalate to growing acts of violence.

Their acts of violence will usually start “small” and be followed by silence or shock or remorse, but they will grow until requiring the victim to avoid being seen in public. The victim will often, without pressure, cover her injuries or go into hiding.

Such men silence their children using a rich combination of charm, fear, power, threats, and a sense of exclusivity.

Women stay with such men for many reasons, primarily because their lives are baptized in fear.

Before I am flooded with emails informing me that women can also be violent know that I am aware. But, it is predominantly men. The last four very recent incidents of domestic violence I have heard about have all been men.

August 7, 2018


by Rod Smith

“My wife and I are really struggling with a miscarriage we had just over four months ago. This has broken our hearts. We were very excited and had prepared everything for our baby. What breaks our hearts even more are the horrible things people say, even close family, like ‘it wasn’t meant to be’ and ‘God is in control’ and ‘the baby went back to heaven’ and ‘you will get pregnant again.’ I think I am a little better at responding to these stupid comments (which are meant to be showing comfort) than my wife is. She doesn’t want to be out in public or even with family and friends because she is so tired of the ridiculous things people say. What do you think?”

Your letter is sufficient to inform family and friends what not to say to a grieving couple. I hope your letter will be read and result in insensitive men and women becoming more aware of the intense grief you and couples like you have had to endure.

Your parent head and your parent heart will never forget the child with whom you bonded for a brief time. You will love the child forever and part of you will grieve forever.

Hope awaits you both. The loss will ultimately transform you if you will allow. 

August 5, 2018

High-functioning people…..

by Rod Smith

Regularly relating to high-functioning people (intimate or casual):

• Will give you the lasting impression that life is an exciting adventure, filled with wonderful, endless possibilities.

• Will give you the impression that questions are more important than answers and that ambiguity is an ally and not a foe.

• Will leave you feeling empowered and encouraged and that if you apply yourself you can do about anything you can dream of doing and go anywhere on the planet that you’d like.

• Will leave you with the desire to read and discover more about areas of interest you did not even perhaps know you have.

• Will inspire you to become engaged in your own life at least as deeply as they are engaged in theirs.

• Will engage you in skillful humor that has no victims.

August 5, 2018


by Rod Smith

How do you face Mondays? I hope you know you have a choice in the matter. It is up to you if it’s going to be a blue Monday or a beautiful Monday.

It’ll be blue if you see the people around you as a hindrance or as obstacles to your happiness. They are not. It’ll be blue if you see your work as a hardship to endure. It’s probably not. It’ll be a really blue Monday if you carry a load of resentments and grudges and anger from last week or from years ago into the week. It’ll be a blue Monday full of harsh surprises if you feel the world owes you something. It doesn’t.

Your Monday and your week and, if fact your entire life, will be beautiful if you treasure the people around you and regard them as your greatest gifts. They are. If you regard your work as your art you will be transformed by your career. If you enter the week free of resentments and full of forgiveness and ready for reconciliation, not only will you have a great week, you will inspire others to live similarly. Give the world your best, every day of the week and it will return the favor even though it owes you nothing.

August 2, 2018

The power of impartial listening

by Rod Smith

If you can find an impartial listener when you are troubled, or when you are embarking on new adventures, facing tough decisions, or find yourself in a relational impasse, you have found gold.

This person will listen attentively and ask probing questions. Questions will serve to drive you deeper to the heart and core of what you are facing. He or she will be unafraid to challenge you, evaluate your logic, and draw your attention to your blind spots.

Such invaluable encounters usually lead to greater objectivity. The very act of preparing and then articulating an issue can expose necessary steps or unearth essential nuggets to finding resolution, with or without the impartial listener’s help. Talking helps. Listening, even to your own voice can lead to new insights that may be unavailable otherwise.

Great comfort can be found in spending time with a person who has no ulterior motives, who can help you to reflect and act as your sounding board.

Perhaps even better than finding such a person is to be such a person.

Offer your mature, impartial ear to those who need it and you will be offering, and discovering, gold.