Archive for February, 2023

February 20, 2023

The power of a good cup of tea

by Rod Smith

On a trip within Jamaica the heat got to me and so I searched for a good cup of tea. 

I ventured off a busy street into a tea-room, which was a very crowded supply store with one table and chair hidden among unopened boxes stacked ceiling-high and placed my order. 

I got more than I bargained for, much more. 

With the little steel tea-pot and good china placed before me, I thought of my parents’ home

Then, lifting the lid of the little milk jug to see why it poured so slowly, I discovered it was sweetened condensed milk. Having not had sweetened condensed milk, with tea, for many years, in fact, not since I was a child, I was ecstatic. 

Sipping tea in Jamaica I could taste and feel my parent’s home. 

With the warm cup in both hands I was transported to my childhood bed, my back propped against the wooden headboard. My head flooded with minute details, and, as I smelled and tasted the tea I was once again a child. 

For brief moments I was not an adult exploring the beautiful Jamaica but a child home from school, sipping tea in the privacy of his South African boyhood bedroom.

February 19, 2023

Look me in the eyes

by Rod Smith

An exercise for couples and friends…… choose your paragraphs wisely:

Look me in the eye and……

To look into the eyes of another may reveal a primal urge to dominate and, in some cultures, it may be a no-no pivoting on age and status, but for me, it’s a desire for deep connection, validation, underscoring that we are, at least for this time, fully present for each other.

When I look you in the eyes I see the beauty of your soul. Your strength, fueled and tended by a thousand faced challenges, radiates power and beauty from you in equal measure. Looking into your eyes gives me courage for my own life.

Look me in the eyes and know I’m embracing everything about you and hope you will return the embrace and accept (almost) everything about me. Nothing I see within you will cause me to retract from you or reject you and if I do appear to shudder it’s in sheer trepidation that comes with authentic committed human connection.

Look me in the eyes and tell me you love me, or loved me once and no longer do, but indifference, avoiding me, and ignoring that I exist, treating me as if I’m invisible, is very hard for me to deal with.

February 16, 2023

Essential message to……

by Rod Smith

Dear Roomful Teenage Girls and Young Adult Women:

There’s much I’d like to say. I know people hear and learn according to readiness for both. Sometimes learning requires pain, even desperation. It always requires humility. It won’t surprise me if you think I have nothing to teach you. Either way, here goes:

You don’t NEED a man. If you WANT one, and don’t NEED one, you will be amazed at the different quality of men you will meet. Desperation emits messages unhealthy men find very attractive.

This doesn’t, of course, mean that I think you should not date or pursue marriage. I want you to know you are ENOUGH already, you don’t need a man to help you be something that you cannot already be on your own. Reject the term “other half” or “better half” – it’s nonsense. You are not a “half” waiting for some man to be made whole!

When the time is right, seek a MUTUAL and EQUAL and RESPECTFUL relationship. It will challenge, sharpen, and, yes, “improve” you. It’s got to be all three from the outset. You can’t easily import them into a relationship once it has started.

Don’t chase anyone for anything. Chase only a fine education.

February 16, 2023

Say something

by Rod Smith

If you must say something make it loving and beautiful and accurate, unless you’re making up a story for a child then make it wild, wonderful and full of mystery, myth and energy.

If you say something try to be affirming with the knowledge that everything you say exposes your inner-world given that we love, see and speak to a world not as it is, but as we are.

If you say something try to avoid “you need,” and “you must,” and “you ought” when addressing adults as if you’re more qualified at life and living than they are. Yes, of course it’s ok to recommend things but you know full well when suggestions dress up as manipulations, as coercion, as willing another, arm-wrestling another, into a preferred shape or form.

If you say something, before it leaves your mouth check if it’s good seed and may grow or stone and may wound on reaching your intended audience. While you’re at it, run it through your grandmother’s filter who probably told you you never need to swear or blaspheme.

If you must say something, consider briefly if what you want to say may require an apology in the near or distant future.

February 15, 2023

Highest Good

by Rod Smith

May we seek and desire love, in other words, the Highest Good both for ourselves and for others, intimates and strangers alike. 

Consequently, desire power over no one but over yourself which, even then, will be surprisingly limited. Remind yourself that you are more than meets the eye and are powerfully shaped by generations of enriching and detracting pressures which exert degrees of power over you and which is probably enough to deal with without trying to manage another.

When you perceive others conferring power upon you, as kindly as possible, draw attention to it and suggest their “gift” is misplaced. While flattering, it’s unlikely to be helpful in the long term to anyone. 

When you perceive yourself to be conferring power upon another, even an intimate or trusted friend, be on alert. Assess what it is you are seeking from this inordinate connection or avoiding within yourself such conferring is necessary. As comfortable as it may seem it’s unlikely to be helpful in the long term to anyone. 

May we allow the words of Rev. Msimangu in Alan Paton’s “Cry, the Beloved Country” to be an encouragement: 

“But there is only one thing that has power completely, and that is love. Because when a man loves, he seeks no power, and therefore he has power.”

February 14, 2023


by Rod Smith

You may have noticed there are about 7 layers beneath the situations – the problems, anti-social behaviors, joys, conflicts, kindnesses, dilemmas, addictions, attractions, and much more – churning within you and within the people with whom you live and those whom you meet everyday.

A less-complex linear world may be convenient but human dynamics escape mere “cause and effect.”

We are much more (thankfully) than billiard balls bumping into each other.

“Johnny doesn’t want to go to school” followed by “What’s ‘wrong’ with Johnny?” or “What’s ‘wrong’ with the teacher or school?” is linear thinking.

Johnny may want to stay home from school to protect mom from dad or dad from mom and not even know it. Johnny may prefer home to school because he recognizes rejection from children of a different socio-economic group than he enjoys or endures. Johnny may well be unaware of the reasons for the anxiety he feels when leaving for school and, if family members who had similar feelings about schooling generations before he was conceived, were honest, Johnny may realize he’s from a long line of school-resistent family members.

Yes, your behavior is at least as complex as my fictional Johnny’s behavior.

Appreciating the multiple levels underlying complex human behaviors takes empathy, patience and kindness.

For an observer lacking empathy we are all not much more than the results of mere cause and effect, billiard balls knocking into each other.

February 13, 2023

Father Michael and I met in 1973……

by Rod Smith

February 13, 2023

Supporting change in those whom we love

by Rod Smith

The constant back and forth between and among people over days and months and years – the actions, the looks, sighs, what’s assumed, the smiles and the frowns – and so much more, reinforce the fact that we teach each other how to treat each other. Those who know us intimately can read and mis-read us, and even the mis-readings become part of the ongoing dialogue and the ongoing mutual training.

It is the fact that these patterns are so known and so often repeated that makes change for improvements hard for all parties concerned.

When relationships are mutual and respectful it is these qualities that allow for change.

If you or I see and shift in the manner a person whom we know well is responding to us and others, and the relationship is sound and secure, you and I embrace the shift, we know this person whom we love and respect is at liberty to try all the shifts and changes he or she wants. 

As life progresses and growth occurs, needs and wants, and people, change.

In respectful relationships we get out of each other’s way. 

We step aside.

We watch with wonder and curiosity when the people we love embrace new ideas and explore new and different ways of living and offer love, support, and applause.

February 12, 2023


by Rod Smith

Packing for the journey, be it a short or extended, preparation pays off. 

Through contemplation (reading, prayer, meditation) build your reserves of kindness, goodness and patience. While you are at it, find Grace for yourself and for others then, with humility, venture out with courage. You’re topped up with every good thing and ready to enrich the world around you. 

Keep I mind that everyone has a story to tell. If you have the patience and listen you may make someone’s day. Being willing to listen will distinguish you from the bulk of humanity who seem committed to wanting to talk. I’d suggest that your willingness to listen may indeed save someone’s life. I know this to be true.

Increase your awareness. There will always be people with a transactional approach to life. Any kindness, special favors, displays of hospitality you experience from them is a down payment on what they want from you in the future. This is neither good or bad, it is simply how some operate. As long as we understand these differences among people all will be well. 

I find it helpful – although not foolproof – to have a mantra for the day like “I will love, I will listen, I will learn” and it colours my lenses enough to keep me out of trouble.

[The Mercury — Monday, February 13, 2023]

February 10, 2023

Uplifting music by my son……

by Rod Smith

All lyrics and music by Thulani Smith.