Archive for November, 2020

November 30, 2020

To the matrics in South Africa

by Rod Smith

To the men and women finishing up their matric examinations within the next two weeks. 

I want you to know the expectations placed upon you far exceed anything I have seen in any school system in the USA. 

You are indeed privileged. 

The quality of your instruction and the examination of your knowledge will stand you in good stead no matter how arduous it may feel right now, days from the end.

Please think on these things:

  • No matter what you become, may generous, kind, and thoughtful be words always used to describe you. If you are going to be a doctor, lawyer, teacher, artist, scientist, entrepreneur, nurse, be generous, kind, thoughtful while you are at it. Jerks abound. Don’t be one of them. 
  • No matter what, may you also become an expert in your own behavior and respect how your behavior impacts those in your immediate influence and those whom you may never know or meet. Understand and use your power for good. You will be amazed at the good you can leverage.
  • No matter what you become may you learn the power of sound financial management. If you play your cards right (and I don’t mean credit cards) you have enough years ahead to be financially sound and financially independent by the time you are 40 – and be generous, kind, and thoughtful while you are at it.  
November 27, 2020

Watch what you hoard

by Rod Smith

The Mercury / Friday

Have you heard about the woman who left a town because people were unfriendly?

When pushed the she said the place was full of angry, judgmental people, just like the churches she’d also left.

She left the next town and church, and this time the book club, too.

Same reasons.

The woman got a return on her resentments.

She got back what she put out. Nothing wrong here. Works without fail.

You and I don’t get to escape this.

We get what we look for, find what our eyes are trained to find. Our lenses are shaped by what’s locked in our heads, hearts, souls. We trip over, time and again, what we accumulate.

You may have noticed that our beings (brains, hearts, souls) are wired to provide a rather complex backdrop of experiences to our every encounter and every context. It doesn’t take much information – or the lack of it – for what Freud dubbed projection to run its course.

Our dislikes, hates, are banked, vaulted in complex passageways and troves deeply within us. And yet, in an instant, a mere phrase, a whiff of scent, a vague facial likeness met in a “new” person can unlock our depths only to spew all manner of emotions, resentments, prejudices.

“Where did that come from?” an observer may legitimately ask.

It’s a return on resentment.

Watch what you hoard.

I’ll try to do the same.

November 22, 2020

Holding onto yourself

by Rod Smith

Step 1 in every exchange, crises, debate, large or small – significant or insignificant – is to hold onto yourself. This means to be deliberate, thoughtful, and to behave in accordance with your long-held values and integrity. 

Knee-jerk responses, off the cuff “decisions,” doing or saying the first things that come to mind are seldom helpful. Reactive impulses and their ramifications are probably not going to pay-off well for you in the long term even if they are impressive to you and to an observer or two in the immediate. (“Wow, I am impressed how you you let him have it!”)

Letting go of who you are, or “losing yourself” – I will remind you that all analogies are faulty – is somewhat like having a loose ball in rugby and in a flash the outcome is up for grabs. 

The power shifts and the outcome changes the moment you lose yourself – and it will seldom be in your long-term favor.

But, holding onto yourself is seldom successfully done without thoughtful preparation, a life-style of such living. Holding onto yourself in a crisis – mini or large – comes from doing so when you are not in one. It’s a frame-work of operation. It is developed in the mundane, the totally inconsequential. It is practiced day-to-day in the “little” things so it becomes a life-style when the consequential is on the line. 

November 18, 2020

If you’re alive…..

by Rod Smith

I would suggest that if you are a living breathing person you will be challenged with all of the following at least a few times every 24 hours. 

I hope you meet the challenges and come out on top. 

In the event you do not, well, as I tell myself, life has a way of giving people fresh opportunities and one can always try again tomorrow:  

The temptations: 

  • To compromise your integrity for popularity, profit, or the semblance of peace.
  • To spend more money than you can afford on things you do not need
  • To be quiet when it is time to speak and to speak when it is time to be quiet..
  • To appear to be listening when someone is talking.
  • To ask questions without listening to the answers.
  • To eat more than you need and waste food a hungry person would crave to enjoy.
  • To speak ill of another and say things about him or her that you would probably not say face-to-face.
  • To nurse relationships bruises and wounds and damages you thought you had already forgiven.
  • To waste time and opportunity and resources without giving it too much thought.
November 16, 2020

What kind of person do I (you) want to be?

by Rod Smith

When I am welcoming to the apparently wealthy people around me and ignore those of limited means I have answered the question.

When I am at a robot (traffic light) faced with a homeless beggar my response to the beggar answers the question. It is in that instance I decide what kind of person I want to be.

If I am ignored by a waiter in a restaurant and I submit to my impulse to punish or “get back” or “go to the top” I have decided what kind of person I want to be.

Who I am is the product of thousands of choices, and much more, compounding and forming into habits and rituals that build platforms for actions and shape the lenses through which I see and respond to the world around me.

While I am unthinking, reactive, and act out of entrenched stereotypes I will always be who I have always been.

Until I am available for something different, ready to even acknowledge that there may exist new and other ways for me to respond to others, I will be who I have always been.

Or, although it is a challenge to face oneself in this way, I can do things a little differently and become someone who is a little closer to who I really want to be.

November 12, 2020

Sometimes I write a little poetry

by Rod Smith

Please Don’t Shoot (Indianapolis 2015)

If you see my (black) son

any time of the day

or in the evening

riding his (red) bike

please don’t shoot him.

He’s as free as the wind

loves his (diverse) neighborhood

knows it block by (colorful) block

If you glimpse him whizzing by

on his bike

or weaving side-to-side

on his (new) roller-blades

– which are the only things he really wanted

for his thirteenth birthday – and candy

please, please don’t shoot.

He’s really good at both

– bikes and roller-blades –

and I assure you he’s not trying

to get away from you or from anything

nor is he coming at you

he’s definitely not dangerous

even though he’s

moving very quickly

and he is making his way home

enjoying the last few weeks of


November 10, 2020


by Rod Smith

How we treat each other is of paramount importance.

When we respect each other it provokes wholeness, goodness in our communities.

Treasuring each other begins with me, where I live, and with you, where you live.

If it goes “viral” that will be wonderful, but that is not the point. It’s not the goal. Respecting each other is an end in itself.

Treating each other with highest-good love, absolute respect, with a commitment to mutuality, equality, justice, is not only good for those on the receiving end. It transforms anyone who seeks to make it a way of life.

While humankind has messed (to put it kindly) with each other forever, hurting and disrespecting each other is not normal. It is common. It’s not normal.

Hurting, using, deceiving each other is not natural to our design.

This is why every time we violate another (even benignly – if there is such a thing) we know it.

Every time we lie, cheat, disrespect another, we know it. Our internal black box registers it, sends us a signal. An alarm goes. Do it enough, override the alerts until such overriding becomes routine, habitual, and the alarms will dampen. Only in pathological circumstances, will they disappear.

Resets are internal before manifesting externally for we love others as we are, not as they are.

Join me, please, even if it’s for “selfish” reasons. Even if we fail things are still likely to improve.

November 9, 2020

It’s all about you…….

by Rod Smith

You are the common denominator in all of your relationships.

You get the joy of teaching others how to treat you. You get the daily job of guiding others how not to treat you. You get to determine how and where you spend your energy and you decide hour by hour who and what gets your love and attention. There is no escaping it.

Your levels of anger and resentment, levels of grace and forgiveness, are all in your hands. Actually, they are driven by your thinking and are filtered through your heart and come out in what you do with your hands.

You are responsible for your relationships and it is so unless you are severely incapacitated. You are the center of your circle and you set the tone for how you will respond to all that transpires outwardly from you. Divine Grace is available to you, but even then, you have to be willing to embrace it. Many don’t and won’t.

It all starts within you. It really is all about you.

This is true even when it comes to your faith, your children, and to your most intimate or most casual relationships.

Before I am deluged with resistance, this is not selfish thinking. To think any other way about it probably is!

So, let’s be kind, take responsibility for ourselves, serve others, and do no harm.

November 8, 2020

Love in any language

by Rod Smith

The Mercury / Monday

There’s a lot of writing – whole books – about “love languages” and finding someone who speaks and understands yours. You can attend seminars to fine tune and understand your love language if you so desire.

Let me save you some money.

The following can (I say “can” because people of course use language to manipulate others) express love in any language:

• I love you. I am proud of you. You make my life richer. You make everything nicer.

• There is so much I respect about you. Would you like me to go into some detail?

• We have so many beautiful memories together. Would you like me to go into some detail?

• What would you like to tell me? I will give you my complete attention and I won’t interrupt you.

• How may I assist you today to make life a little – or a lot – easier for you?

The following do not express love in any language:

• I am tired of you saying the same old things.

• Life would be so much better if you would just….. (insert pet peeve).

• You should, you need, you ought….. (insert your subtle or gross form of control).

• I could forgive you if…… (name long-held grievance).

• No matter what you say I have heard it all before.

November 3, 2020

Growing up?

by Rod Smith

To my treasured audience of younger men and women.

How do you know you are growing up? 

  • You clean up after yourself so others don’t have to. You are aware of the impact your life has on others and try to ease their load.
  • You are interested in other people and what they do and how they spend their days. You express that interest and listen when they tell you.
  • You are saving as much money as you are able. You have done some research into the best ways to save. You have a plan and you are sticking to it.
  • You are learning to monitor what you say, what you agree to do, what you agree not to do. You know words have consequences and you are trying to monitor how you use them. 
  • You are learning to “switch places” with others in your head. You ask yourself how this other person feels, thinks, sees life. You assess how much or how little you’d like to be this other person – whoever he or she is – and behave accordingly.
  • You know how to take responsibility for yourself and are quick to offer a sincere apology when necessary.