Archive for ‘Friendship’

January 18, 2018

Yes, No: teaching both….

by Rod Smith
Teaching children “yes” and “no” is, in my mind, as important as teaching a child how to read, write, and to count.

I want my sons, according to their respective ages, to…

  • Say YES to opportunities even if they involve risk or if they involve venturing into the unknown, learning new things, and breaking unhelpful habits.
  • I want them to say YES especially if the opportunities involve meeting new people and people other than those with whom they’d usually mix.
  • Say YES to opportunities to travel, to serve, and to build and to assist in mending broken places.
  • Say YES to reading new ideas and to writing responses to them.
  • Say YES when they encounter opportunities to offer hospitality.
  • Say NO to toxic secrets, to behavior that judges or excludes others.
  • Say NO to religious teachings that limit their capacities for generosity and for freedom.
  • Say NO to anything that will potentially delay their formal education no matter how appealing or adventurous the idea may be.
  • Say NO to those who disrespect them or encourage them to treat the adults around them with anything less than utmost respect and close-to-perfectly good manners.
  • Say NO to those who dismiss their ideas and who treat them as a means toward their disclosed or undisclosed ends.
January 7, 2018

Music within — or not? ….. It gets in the way of hearing and loving

by Rod Smith

I have written frequently about listening as a tangible gift of love. Please ponder the following as you exercise your listening skills and grow in this love-skill:

We cannot hear others more than we are willing to hear ourselves. Until I am willing to hear from myself – which means decipher my emotional pains, discern what my daydreams may mean (if anything at all), acknowledge and de-code painful memories and secret longings, face my darker secrets – the noise within my own life will keep me from accurately hearing others.

While I refuse to, or cannot hear myself, your voice will have to compete with my discordant soundtrack.

This is why we “hear what we want to hear” and hear what is not being said. We hear what fits with our unfinished, ignored, or aching symphony. Gosh, I didn’t mean to be quite so dramatic!

It’s a fallacy to think that we have to master our own lives – or successfully expel the discordant soundtrack (to continue the metaphor) before we can really love by listening. That day is unlikely to come for any of us.

Listening to our own inner-music, allowing it to speak to us, embracing it, making peace with it, helps clear the way and empowers us to really hear others.

January 2, 2018

I am my first reader….

by Rod Smith

If you want a more spiritual 2018 do the following….

  • Tell the truth with love and with kindness. Truth may be brutal but you don’t have to be.
  • Pay your debts and pledges. If you cannot be honest about why declare your plan about how you will.
  • Be kind to everyone, especially those who serve you, annoy you, and those you have somehow misunderstood as being “below” you. None of us is above or below anyone.
  • Seek mutuality, equality, and respect in every relationship. If any of these qualities is missing from any relationships delve into why it is so and fix it. Fixing it may involve humility and courage. Be assured, both are good for you.
  • Define yourself before someone else does. This does not necessitate confrontation, but it may.
  • Take hold of your life, finances, and habits before someone else has to. Remember spiritualty is measured in how you handle money and what you do with it.
  • Join or create a community of equals. Stay with it even when, and especially when, it may become uncomfortable.
  • If your faith or religion has made you hard and certain and rigid find a new church.

Please, dear reader, know that I am my first reader, my first audience. I write what I need to hear.

December 28, 2017

Last column of the year…..

by Rod Smith

The next time we “see” each other in the newspaper it will be 2018!

It’s 28C in the Durban area and negative 13C in Indianapolis as I write.

We did have a white Christmas.

Distance, weather, and many gross and subtle cultural differences separate me from you, but writing “You and Me” for all these years and getting loads of mail, has served to connect me to you and hopefully you to me.

This column will begin it 17th year in March 2018. By grace alone its impact has spread from the Mercury to a loyal and growing readership in about 160 nations.

Thank you Mercury readers. Thank you Mercury leadership and administration.

You have helped me write myself well (or at least well-er) and afforded me a platform to reach lots of people.

May you all have a happy and safe New Year.

In closing for 2017:

Yesterday I referred to my father’s idiom, Don’t carry your fish in a violin case. It stimulated questions.

Allow me illustrate:

In 1994 my dad and I visited a bookstore in Indianapolis where he saw a sign announcing “Books by the Yard (meter)”. It dawned upon him that people buy impressive looking books for show.

“That,” my boy, he said, “is carrying fish in a violin case.”

December 26, 2017

The doldrums are for planning…

by Rod Smith

I call these few days between Christmas and New Year the doldrums. They’re a breather: a time to drift between calendar high points. I get nostalgic. I experience strong elements of necessary regret as I wait for the promise of the new calendar year to kick in.

I am always reminded:

  • Integrity, honesty, kindness, forgiveness, and reconciliation – all captured by the word holiness, is local. By “local” I mean immediate and with the people with whom I share every day life.
  • If it (idea, principle, program) doesn’t work right here, now and with this family member, neighbor, colleague, it’s worthless.
  • All worthwhile positive change is first internal – the outward follows the inward. It may be convenient to switch this – thinking the inward follows the outward – but doing so is a waste of time.
  • It is possible for people to regard each other with deep, authentic respect but it is impossible without commitment to profound listening. All love begins and is demonstrated with listening and listening takes commitment and time.
  • Things are not fair or reasonable or kind while one party is gaining or advancing at the expense of another.

Please, let me know the things you think about as you prepare for your year ahead. I know we can learn from each other – it just takes a commitment to listening.

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 30, 2017

Toward being more human

by Rod Smith

When referring to my brother’s generosity I wrote that I believe generosity is among several of the most powerful human abilities. I’ve seen it time and again do its fabulous work.

Here are more of what I believe to be innate human capacities.

Exercised, they make us “more human.” Neglected or ignored, I believe they render us rather cold, even inhuman:

  • The capacity to forgive even the most grievous offenses – yes, of course it’s hard, but NOT doing so may be even harder.
  • The capacity for empathy – to see and understand, but of course, not necessarily agree with, the perspective of another, even that of an enemy.
  • The capacity to influence for good (and, to influence for ill is bundled within the same set of human strengths). We have the power to influence – let’s hope it is used for good.
  • The capacity to learn from mistakes and errors, and to learn that it is possible to not repeat them.
  • The capacity to move up the brain and therefore allow ones self to think more objectively, engage in better long-term planning, and form the habit of responding rather than reacting.
  • The capacity to listen more than to speak. If we listen we may actually learn something – when we speak we are usually repeating what we think we already know.
  • The capacity to calm the ego rush – or the ability to see and understand that being right or recognized or winning doesn’t come close to the joy of learning to be loving.
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

October 25, 2017

Double whammy…..

by Rod Smith

The Mercury – Wednesday

Over the almost-30 years I have lived in the USA I still miss KwaZulu-Natal.

When the snow is deep at my front door I miss your weather. I miss watching rugby but only when Glenwood is playing College. When I am in some Midwest Indian restaurant I crave a bunny on the beachfront.

I always want to be there when there’s a significant family event.

This week I’m facing a double whammy.

My Australian brother is visiting Durban for the first time in many years and he’s there to celebrate my sister’s 70th birthday.

As a child I could never have predicated or imagined the gift that my siblings are to me. Individually and together, they are among the most generous, kind, entertaining, and friendly people I have ever met. I am frequently stopped in my tracks when I witness and experience their enormous love and commitment to character, honesty, and generosity.

Sometime I will write about their generous ways, but for today, I will leave it at welcoming dear brother to Durban and hoping that Jennifer Joy Arthur has a splendid 70th birthday.

Just so you are all fully aware, we’re expecting our first snow this weekend.