Archive for January, 2022

January 16, 2022

Suicide

by Rod Smith

Writers search within themselves for opening lines. Like athletes may recall a winning goal or an impossible rugby try, we admire a good one. My all-time favorite is Frederick Buechner’s opener of his memoir “Telling Secrets.” It lulls. It seduces. Then, all in one sentence, it delivers an unforgettable punch. I’d love to know how long it took him to perfect.

Buechner’s opener recalls that early one morning his father popped into the bedroom preteen-Frederick shared with his brother – the sentence suggests something habitual or repetitive is occurring – and then made his way to the garage, where within minutes, his father died at his own hand from exhaust fumes.

The sad event, the dad, the loss was never explained or referred to or talked about. Not ever.

The opener hit me hard as intended. Bullseye. The words on the page parraleled what suicide does to survivors. It takes us by complete surprise and it is then often locked away within forever, layered in shame, buried in secrecy, hidden like a lost or hidden grave.

Please, get the help you need, before you make a permanent choice over what are most surely powerful and driving destructive emotions. Help is available. There are armies of people waiting to help you.

January 12, 2022

Walking Away

by Rod Smith

“I have had worse partings,” writes Irish poet Cecil Day-Lewis in “Walking Away.” 

“Like a satellite wrenched from its orbit, go drifting away,” writes Lewis, having watched his son, “a hesitant figure, eddying away like a winged seed loosened from its parent stem.” 

Lewis, observing from a distance, sees the boy disappear into a mass of boys each beginning his new phase of life at boarding school. 

Lewis knows the inevitable separation necessary for his son’s selfhood, independence, then, interdependence but it nonetheless “gnaws” at his soul. 

The poet accepts the process of “nature’s give and take.”

I have held onto these words for decades, tried, for much longer, to live within the idea that everything that is living requires space. Everything living desires room to grow, room to be free, openness to leave the nest, and access to a “nest” willing to accept the ebbs and flows of life and growth.  

Now that my sons are both young adults I read Lewis’s closing lines – in fact the whole poem – vastly differently than I did before. 

I have had front row seats, watched two boys learn to crawl, then walk, then run towards manhood. 

“Selfhood begins with walking away and love is proved in letting go,” concludes Lewis.

January 11, 2022

Friends

by Rod Smith

The fingerprints, handprints, voiceprints, and footprints of really good friends

Friends are gentle and kind. They listen to you without judgment or assumption. They respect and honor you just as you offer respect and honor when the tables are turned. Friends are generous and kind. They often intuitively know exactly what you need, be it a good laugh, a welcoming shoulder for support or tears.

Friends learn to hear each other even if no one is talking, mutually hearing what is said and not said. You can read between the lines with each other and yet be careful to not jump to easy conclusions.

Your good friends will go the extra mile with you and for you so you may not have to leave your home. They will also go the extra mile with you in the event a literal journey is inevitable.

Your friends let you know you are not alone without having to say so. They bear your load, serve you in ways you may never thought necessary. Your friends know you well and want the best for you and mutuality, respect and equality are the hallmarks of what you enjoy together.

January 9, 2022

You have superpowers

by Rod Smith

I would like to remind you that you are endowed with superpowers. 

While you may not feel powerful or think of yourself as powerful, you are. 

It comes with your humanity. 

The superpowers to which I refer have nothing to do with money or status or what are generally considered necessary to be influential and, and this is most important,  they cannot be taken from you. 

You can only give them away. 

When you use them, by giving them away, they are immediately replenished so  you will never run out.  

You have the superpower of friendship. This is the capacity to reach out to people who think they have none.  

You have the superpower of generosity – the power to give of your time and talents to others and the ability to share what you have in excess. 

You have the superpower of grace – the ability to offer others room for error and failings and the privilege of being as imperfect as each of us is. 

You have the superpower of forgiveness. You can offer people, even those who do not deserve it, a clean slate and the opportunity to “start over.”

You have  the superpower of hospitality – the capacity to be open and welcoming to others, all others. 

Five radical powers all wrapped up in one person, you.

January 4, 2022

Larger than life

by Rod Smith

I know you have met or read about people who are “larger than life.” Perhaps you had a teacher or two who you may now describe as such. I was posed the question, “What makes somebody larger than life?” I’d like to hear your ideas and I am pleased to share mine with you.

The men and women I have met who are so described have all, without fail:

Been committed to purposes larger than themselves and from a long, long before that commitment made them appear larger than life. They never set out to become larger than life but wanted without fail to make life larger for others, even others whom they would never know or meet.

They embraced their own failings and shortcomings and decided these inevitable wounds and scars would  not impede or limit their passion to advance the causes in which they believed. 

They were and are listeners – regarding others as important, not as a trick, but because they are. When with them you feel as if you are the only person he or she has ever encountered. 

They have all had a handful of close friends who are unimpressed with who and what they are and who are able to tell them the truth as they see it. People who are larger than life are accountable to others.