Archive for ‘Faith’

June 7, 2023


by Rod Smith

I noticed some years ago that on landing in Johannesburg or Cape Town from an overseas flight after a long absence from South Africa, unanticipated memories — not always helpful or wanted, often unusual — would begin to surface. For instance, telephone numbers I’d not accessed or needed for years would be readily available.

I had not unbuckled my 46G seat and faced customs and immigration yet on this trip and for some reason I remembered the newspaper seller who stood on the corner of Field and Smith Streets at 1am on a Sunday morning after I’d left the Oyster Box Hotel. Danny would save me “all three” papers for a healthy tip and remind me that he’d kept “all three” last week and I’d not arrived.

I can never go too far down my Duran memory lane before Gordon Michael at the Mitchell Gardens Blue Zoo restaurant, a beloved afternoon tea spot, fills me with delight. On visiting, Gordon would open his menu and show me my columns he’d cut from the paper and stuffed into his menu to show his customers how long we’d been friends. Gordon has no idea how often I’ve told audiences of his stories of Durban and of his 46 years of faithful service to a city and people whom he has so deeply loved.

Gordon Michael
June 6, 2023

Ten days

by Rod Smith

There were 32 of us from 14 countries.    

Mozambique, Malawi, Rwanda, South Africa, South Sudan, Namibia, Burkina Faso, Zambia, and several other African countries were well represented. Three were from the USA. One was from the UK and one was from Canada. 

We were a collection of pastors and counselors, writers, journalists, and artists. Two were television journalists who covered little known wars. I was aware of at least 1 engineer. 

I heard people speaking English, Portuguese, Xhosa, and several languages I could not identify. 

While I have no way of knowing anyone’s net worth it became clear from multiple conversations that some lived on very very little while others have all they’ll ever need. 

Several people among us had buried their children, faced wars, famine and experienced violence first hand. 

Some had faced forced removals and had to resettle in areas unknown. At least 2 had endured brutal torture. 

For 10 days we lived together, shared meals, and talked. We learned. We laughed. We listened. Some cried. 

Over the days it became clear that happiness and peace and goodwill all come from within and defy purchase. We learned, some for the first time and some again, that it’s not where someone lives that delivers contentment, but always how.

May 21, 2023

Culture shaping…..

by Rod Smith

I enjoy moments when life places me with people of diverse cultures. I love it when individuals are sufficiently comfortable to discuss the power that culture has in shaping our lives and our perceptions.

Mary is amazed that Anvi met her husband for the first time at their wedding. Mary is further surprised that Anvi says she is happily married. Anvi tells Mary she could never have been brave enough to pursue a “love marriage.” Anvi says her parents, whom she does trust, know her better than she knows herself and therefore knew what kind of man she would want to marry.  

John is amazed to hear that I’m willing to respect women leaders. John is even more surprised to hear I raised two babies without women to change their nappies (diapers). He tells me I insulted the men of his culture by doing “women’s work.”

Sunmi is confused at hearing June is unwilling to give up her career to take care of her aging mother-in-law. She expresses that such a choice in her culture would be considered unusual. 

A child, to the annoyance of some of the adults, interrupte his mother while his mother is talking. The mother considers it perfectly “normal” for a child to exhibit such behavior and is unaware that a child interrupting an adult in many cultures is considered gross disrespect.

May 7, 2023

Who? What? How?

by Rod Smith

Pivotal moments; defining people, unexpected challenges, undiluted courage — identifying the moments of highest positive return in your life. 

What experiences shaped your life in powerful, beneficial ways? Who are the people who turned you around, pointed you in a new and helpful direction? Who was the teacher or coach who restored your confidence when it was shaken?

Please, let me know. 

Taking stock on your history and the people who shaped you and the moments that shifted your trajectory is usually a healthy and rewarding exercise. 

Richard Morey (RIP) was my English teacher in high school. He took an essay I had written and put red lines through most of it with comments like, “you’re wasting my time” in the margins.

Near the end of my essay he circled a portion and in the margin he wrote: “Do more of this: this will make you a writer!” and so I did.

Frank Graham taught me Afrikaans and knew of my debilitating stutter which I tried most unsuccessfully to hide. While caring and kind, Mr. Graham never backed off, he offered me opportunities to speak like every other student and imparted the idea that I really had something to say.

Fifty countries later traveling as a writer and speaker I have much for which to thank these two fine men.

[Written in Malaysia]

Room With A View
May 6, 2023

Things to try….

by Rod Smith

Things to try for a few days in the hopes will soon see they are life-style habits worthy of developing:

Plan your day. 

Plan who you will seek to empower and encourage. 

Write (using a pencil and paper) a few ideas as to how you will empower others no matter what your station in life. 

Oddly, the more you plan, the more you will allow for a serendipitous life. 

Besides, getting yourself ready for a great day will sharpen your eyes to recognize when great days come your way.

Plan your day as if planning a great day is in your power to do so. 

Write a few notes to yourself about how much money you will spend, how much you will try to save. 

Plan what and whom you will avoid because some things suck the life out of you. 

As you plan your day, remind yourself that you are not all-powerful and that things happen to derail the best made plans. This does not mean a plan is not worth making.

Plan your responses to tough or challenging circumstances and situations so that you are unlikely to spend the day in a reactive mode with fight or flight as your defaults. Write a few notes to yourself about what you will or will not say and whom you will and will not engage.

May 3, 2023


by Rod Smith

Recap on anything the group would like to look at again or to reconsider.

The Humble Samaritan – why it this such a radical parable?

Fables and other resources

Post-traumatic Growth

Helpers’ Lives

POWER Balloon

Every person has been given a Power Balloon that represents an allotment of power. This is the power to have a voice, to decide, to be, to have opinions, have fun, learn, experience, to be autonomous, to be intimate, to be fulfilled and to love.

Within every person’s capacity (power) is the ability to do research and to decide things for oneself, to worship, pray, accept, reject, remain free of abusive relationships and to create and enjoy safe relationships.

Every act of manipulation, of cruelty, of “over-functioning ” and of “under functioning ” is the denial of the power of another or of others.

People, for various reasons, will try to burst your balloon, boost your balloon, take your balloon, give you their balloon or render your balloon insignificant.

Resist such acts from others and resist doing such acts to others. Care for your balloon only; leave others to the divine task of caring for and nurturing their own balloons. This is not selfish.

Think of how selfish it is to say to someone, “Here, let me take away your power from you,” or, “Here, I do not want to take care of my own life but you have to do it.” Not even God will take your balloon from you. Your balloon is God-given to you for your care and nurture. (God has God’s own balloon to care for).

The power for you to be fully human is yours and that power should be offered to no one under any circumstances and the position of exercising power over our own lives should never be abdicated except in extreme situations of medical emergencies.

Every baby and child has his own balloon to be respected as much as the balloon of every adult. This, of course, does not mean that babies should be caring for themselves or that children must be given their every whim. Reaching such a conclusion is to misunderstand the concept of what it means to have personal power. The art of parenting a baby, of nurturing children involves respecting and nurturing their sense of personal power. Parenting is exercising the kinds of discipline and care that do not diminish a child’s self-worth or distort their capacity to discern and appreciate the power that is their birthright. Anything less is to “spoil and child.” It is to “spoil” their capacity to see and know themselves with accurate personal assessment.

April 29, 2023

Calm down

by Rod Smith

What will it take for you to calm down and be less anxious? 

Your answer will almost certainly include another person or something from outside of yourself if you are given to anxiety.  

“I’ll calm down when he gets a job.” 

“I’ll calm down when his ex-wife is out of our lives.” 

“I will calm down when the house repairs are complete.” 

The minute we loop others in and believe their behaviors are the reason we are anxious, our anxious state will be at their mercy. 

I’d suggest you can calm yourself down even if he never gets a job or his ex wife never stops interfering and if the house repairs take another five years.. 

The keys to calmness, to reducing anxiety, are within our grasp and not in the hands of others. 

Rise above yourself. 

Get a “bird’s eye” view of your life. 

Become an expert in your behaviors. 

Look at how and why you choose to do the things you do and make necessary changes even if they displease others. 

These are vital steps in modifying your behavior and in reducing your anxiety and therefore calming down.

Calming down is a life-long process, a life-style of self-management, of assuming personal responsibility for who and what we are. 

You will wait forever if you wait for others to do what you alone can only do for yourself.

April 25, 2023

What does love look like….?

by Rod Smith

Love is seeking another person’s highest good, every time, day in and day out. It’s holding nothing back if it’s in the highest interests of whomever you love. 

Love is being willing to be unpopular because some truth is tough to hear and receive. It is being willing to be corrected by the people you love when they think you are wrong or need correction. 

Love is finding legitimate ways to earn the extra money needed to protect and educate and serve the people whom you love. 

Love is thousands of loads of laundry for the baby and then toddler and a young boy or girl and then it’s  teaching young  teenager to do his own.

Love is dealing with men and women who will tell you you are a bad parent for not giving rules and not checking phones or monitoring teenage behavior as if your teenage son or daughter cannot be trusted to exercise good judgment. Their unsolicited scoldings clearly mean they do not trust themselves or their own children.

Love is being committed to telling you the truth as lovingly and as efficiently as possibly. 

Love is learning to love and embrace and fully accept the people whom your loved ones love.

April 19, 2023

South Harlem

by Rod Smith

“You are free to go,” the nurse said as she unswaddled the newborn Thulani, freed his arm, and with a snip of scissors removed the security bracelet off his wrist.

I took those words to heart, perhaps far beyond the meaning the nurse intended.

Now, 25 years later, in a few days I will attach a Uhaul to our car and T and I will head to South Harlem in New York City. We will unload all his possessions and move them into his apartment and I will head back to Nate and we will all three grow accustomed to the new constitution of our family.

The years have been fabulous and the years have been tough. The years have been dramatically beautiful and frequently brutal.

Thanks be to God.

Grace upon grace.

If you have known Thulani all of his life (perhaps you were at the house when he came home to “215”) or if you know him through Tabernacle Presbyterian Church, Saint Richard’s Episcopal School, Herron High School, or Butler, please send him a goodbye greeting in the comments beneath this posting – or via any other way you may already have to reach him.

Time does not permit the farewell party I really wanted for him but if you’d like to send him a gift it would be really appreciated.

I’d suggest you Venmo or CashApp me – the address is the same for both: “RodSmith9802” and in so doing buy him a meal or two or three to help him during his first few months in NYC.

I am deeply indebted to two men from Tab who went to NYC years ago and who have both provided Thulani with invaluable guidance as he makes this brave move – thank you, you know who you are.

I am further and deeply indebted to all who have helped and played parts in Thulani and Nate (Nate will be 21 in May) becoming the fine men they have become.

I hope I can hold onto myself when the I hug T on the South Harlem sidewalk and whisper, “You are free to go” into his ear and then set my GPS and head for Indy.”

April 14, 2023

The Poetry of Healthy Relationships

by Rod Smith

I am I

You and You

We are We

Let Us not ConFuse 

The Three 

(Rod Smith 4/12/2023)