Archive for ‘Faith’

December 13, 2017

Definition of family…..

by Rod Smith

When my first born was a few days old a woman whom I had known for a few years, and was really well-meaning, arrived at my house and suggested I give the baby to a real family.

Her understanding of the context and reason my son’s birth mother choose me to be his (solo) parent was very limited. While the immediate (minimal) shock and pain of that encounter has long worn off (and healed), the exchange – which happened to be the first of many strange or unexpected encounters – did give me what I believe to be a greater acuteness or awareness of what it is that makes a group of people family.

I’d really like to hear your views. Here are a few of mine. A family:

  • Is a place where people are most often related by marriage or blood but often they are not.
  • Is a place where people, who usually share space (but not always), are enduringly committed to each others highest good even if and when the highest good is painful and costly.
  • Is a platform where people can express their differences without being alienated or made to feel bad or wrong for expressing or embodying differences.
  • Is a place where members feel safe (mostly) and when they don’t (feel safe) they can say so and someone in the family will listen and hear and try to understand.
  • It’s a place where, if someone doesn’t feel safe and says so, the person who listens and hears will be able to help discern if feeling unsafe or unsure is appropriate. The process of growing and learning can be very unsettling and feeling unsettled can lead to increasing feelings of vulnerability.
December 6, 2017

The two E-s

by Rod Smith

Enabling is rampant in many families.

It can involve:

  • Covering for someone so outsiders do not notice or find out about his or her undesirable behavior (drinking, gambling, addictive habits).
  • Relaying lies to a workplace – calling in to say he or she is ill when he or she is unable to work because of the addiction.
  • Permitting, turning a blind-eye, cooperating, letting things go unnoticed to keep the peace or because it feel easier.

Enabling behaviors are often subtle way of disguising who it is in a family who is in need of help. The enabler often appears to be the strong or the healthy one. Control is the name of the game – and family life can feel like one.

Empowering is common in healthy families.

It can involve:

  • Getting out of each other’s way so people can learn from errors and get credit for their successes.
  • Allowing natural consequences to follow choices so people can learn just how powerful really are.
  • Trusting and believing in each other even when things do not go to plan or appear to be falling apart.

Empowered people require the company of other empowered people and all require a strong sense of self. Freedom to discover and to learn are the hallmark of the empowered.

November 26, 2017

Picking up pieces

by Rod Smith

The Mercury / Tuesday

I’ve seen women and men painstakingly pick up pieces of their lives after a broken marriage.

This is necessary, natural, and understandable. Deep love, when it ends, at least for one party, is scarily disorientating.

Some never recover. A broken heart can really cause a slow (or a quick) death.

Perhaps you are you tripping over evidence of a terminated relationship. Letters, photographs, or books seem to appear from nowhere and evoke fresh pains or salt for the wounds.

A purge may be necessary, but it’s not for all.

The loot may be all you have. It can become a crucial stepping-stone to greater health. Or it can be a debilitating anchor.

I’ve been confused about why some friendships have ended. I examine memories for clues to what, how, and why things went wrong.

There are times this is unnecessary.

My damaging role is painfully clear.

The pain I caused is deep for others and obvious to me. And, my own and deserved pain is utterly near.

What do we do with our pain – deserved or not?

Options are unlimited once confession occurs.

Confession, of course, does not mean mutual forgiveness is inevitable. It’s not.

Options broaden with confession and commitment to learn from the past.

November 22, 2017

A brother’s gift…..

by Rod Smith

I’ve never been impressed with personalized car license plates unless they were particularly clever or humorous.

Until now.

The Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles accepted my request for “BROGFT” to declare my brother’s gift.

The brand new Mazda 6 in our family is a no-strings-attached gift from my Australian brother.

May every Mazda you see remind you that such brothers and sisters exist. The beauty in the car is more than its sophisticated engineering and sleek lines – I hope your knowledge about my gift provokes the generosity that also exists in your family line. My car is not just a top-of-the-line Mazda. It’s the fruit of years and years of my brother’s part-time, self-funded education and then years and years of very hard work – shared. It’s more than a car with a leather finish. It’s a symbol of love and generosity. It’s more than a replacement for the ailing and beloved diesel, manual, 2003 Beetle – it’s a symbol of the “opposite spirit.”

In a world where it seems everyone is holding on to everything a stashing for personal gain, I have a brother who is not.

Go, and do likewise.

#Mazda #Gift

November 21, 2017

That sane inner-voice…..

by Rod Smith

What’s your inner-voice saying about your diet, spending, gambling, or your role in your family conflicts? I bet you hear or feel the nudge of your inner-voice when you speak harshly to others or are hard or cruel. I thoroughly believe that many of our interpersonal troubles come from the unwillingness or the inability to hear or trust our inner sane voice.

There’s a sane and beautiful person living within you and he or she is trying to get through to you.

If you think things through you will agree that you know what’s good and right, and what is not. I believe we know when we are using others for our own purposes and when we sacrifice their best interests for our own.

We know what to eat and what to avoid.

I know if I am lying or twisting truth in my favor.

Even the most hardened of liars is aware of it – even if the “skill” seems “second nature.”

Of course there are men and women who do indeed have schizoid conditions and to whom this column would not apply – but the vast majority of us have a sane inner-voice that’s aching for a hearing.

Listening in, acting accordingly, would save us an awful lot of pain, trouble, and therapy.

November 14, 2017

Inside / outside

by Rod Smith

There’s a cartoon I glimpsed that has stuck with me. The simple sketch and caption found an indelible place in my heart, mind, soul, spirit, brain, memory, or some combination of all these internal “places.” I list them all –I am sure there are more – because none of us know where within our complex human hard-drive these life-shaping things are stored.

“If you’re ugly on the inside eventually it will show on the outside,” the caption read. I thought of how the caption echoed Jesus who said, “The mouth speaks what the heart is full of.”

Our lives are driven and guided by this inner-place.

In his new book, “Barking to the Choir,” Father George Boyle talks about the deep and hurtful matters in our lives that will be “transmitted” if they are not “transformed.”

He talks about the “language” of our lives – and how they can be lived from a heart of hurt and rejection or from peace and healing. He writes about burying over 200 victims of gang violence in his Los Angeles parish and about being treasured by his homeboys – the men and boys who have left their lives of violence and found lives of grace – as he continues his own battle with cancer.

If you are beautiful on the inside it will show on the outside.

October 17, 2017

Will you be my friend?

by Rod Smith

I am very aware that people don’t analyze their connections in the manner I’ve described below. We’d have healthier communities and families if we did!

  • Will you search with me when I am searching, stand with me when I am standing, and drop to your knees with me in prayer if and when I need it? I will try to do the same for you.
  • Will you stand up to me with firmness and kindness when my many blind spots are blocking my thinking? I will try to do the same for you.
  • Will you join me and examine our connection (as casual acquaintances, colleagues, neighbors, partners, or spouses) so that we remain mutual and equal and respectful no matter the degree or significance of our connection?
  • Will you take time to listen to me? I will try to take time to listen to you?
  • Will you allow me my quirks and eccentricities and try to regard them as interesting rather than regard them as things you wish were different about me?
  • Will you seek my highest good as far as you are able given the knowledge we have about each other? I will try to do the same for you.
  • Will you try to be as unafraid of me as I try to be unafraid of you?
October 9, 2017

What did you learn from your father?

by Rod Smith

Nine things I learned from my father – and some of them not too well:

  • “There, but for the Grace of God, go I.” This he said when seeing anyone in a tight spot, self imposed or not.
  • “What if it was us, Mavis?” This was his appeal to my mother who tended to want to watch expenses more than he did.
  • Radical hospitality. Stories of our father opening our home to strangers were legendary.
  • “Make your words soft and sweet in case you have to eat them.” He used this when I was judgmental or harsh.
  • “Don’t carry your fish in a violin case.” My father despised all pretension.
  • “Build bridges; don’t burn them.” My father feared cut-offs.
  • “A man who is going the wrong way down a one-way street already knows it – he needs help turning around.” Forever benevolent, my father championed the underdog.
  • “Rather be fooled because you trusted too much than because you trusted too little.” And, sadly, he was frequently duped.
  • “If the child needs milk the child needs milk – milk is more important to that child than the money is to me.” He’d open his grocery shop at all hours of the night and give milk to the mother of a hungry baby.

What did you learn from yours. Let me know.  

 

October 5, 2017

Weekend superhero

by Rod Smith

The world is disturbed by threats of nuclear war. There have been horrific mass shootings, race riots, and re-emergences of violent extremes.

Entire regions of the world have been destroyed by hurricanes and earthquakes. Millions are homeless because of severe weather and millions more live as refugees fleeing oppressive political circumstances.

May we (you and I) deploy our most powerful individual forces. As limited as we each may be, the world needs a few superheroes and we can each in our own way be one:

  • Design and commit specific, routine acts of kindness and generosity. Make them pointed, uniquely tailored for someone in need. If possible, make your target an enemy and make your act anonymous. The “routine” will help us form healing habits. The “enemy” element will transform us into fine-tuned agents of grace

  • Extend your immediate community by embracing the stranger, the sojourner, the person on the fringe. Resist the urge to create him or her into your own image by expecting your guest to conform to your ways or to convert to your ways. Superhero hospitality accepts people exactly as they are.

  • In the spirit of St. Francis, indeed a superhero, may we seek to console and to serve rather than to be consoled and to be served. I know, I know – it wasn’t supposed to be a direct quotation.

September 24, 2017

Fine acts of parenting

by Rod Smith

The Mercury / Monday 9/25/2017 / I have witnessed many fine acts of parenting:

  • The mother who sends her adult sons and daughters Mother’s Day cards with handwritten lists of joyous memories about what it has been like to be their mother. She has done this for so long that it was some years before the children (when they were children) even knew they were the ones who were supposed to send her cards.
  • The dad who traded in his own car and settled for a used car so he could give his son the sports car his son wanted.
  • The parents who each worked two jobs so the two sons did not have to assume significant debt to attend university.
  • The single mother who has the wherewithal to leave her daughter’s academic struggles up to her and who encourages her daughter to speak up about what she needs to her teachers.
  • The dad who packs his son’s lunch each day for school and who adds an extra pack for his son’s friend who once expressed to the boy that he wished that he too had a dad.
  • The dad who taught his son to share without ever saying it but by showing it at every turn.
  • The parents who never let drinking distort or shape the way they reared their children.