Archive for ‘Grace’

August 26, 2018

To Educators, everywhere

by Rod Smith

Etched in the Heart

To the Teachers I Know And Those I Don’t

Thousands of lives are enhanced because you demanded your students do their homework, tell truth, stand up straight, and look you in the eye.

You showed them how, and when, to use commas, solve x, and how to exercise and care for their bodies and run on and on and on, but not with their sentences. You helped little hands measure, cut, paste, and draw, and, then, when they got a little older and their hands were a little bigger, you taught them how to march and blow a bugle or beat a drum and pass a baton in relay races and score touchdowns and dance and sing on a stage to crowds of proud and adoring parents.

You showed them why bullying is not a good idea, and why it is wise to share, and unwise to dig in your nose, but wise to cover your mouth when you cough, and to turn away from others and say “excuse me” when you sneeze.

And to wash your hands. Always, wash your hands.

You taught them the power of “please” and “thank you,” and calculus, algebra, and pi, and that “i comes before e, except after c” and how to apologize and to play fair and how to make a paper doll and a paper airplane.

You told them about the planets and volcanoes and why Rome fell and about the International Date Line and salmon in Washington and Oil in Texas and corn in the Midwest and why the Big Apple is called the Big Apple.

You told them about the painful history of our nation and of its victories.

When they told you something was unfair you told them, as if for the very first time it has ever been said: life is not fair.

They cried on your shoulder when a crush crushed them, or a friend betrayed them, or a parent walked out never to return. They cried on your shoulder when you stood with them at a graveside as a body was lowered into the waiting ground; the body of a friend, or a dad, mom, brother, sister. They cried on your shoulder, yes, your shoulder, because they trusted you.

Why? Why did and do they trust you?

They trusted you because, because you trusted them. They trusted you because you had an ocean of patience when you taught them and you demonstrated the necessity of humility, generosity, kindness, and grit, and why we need verbs and adverbs and conjunctions and why we learn things we will never need once we leave school.

A thousand times, when they asked, “Can I use the restroom?” you said, “I don’t know, CAN you?”

Yes, teacher, yes, head of school. Yes, principal, librarian, coach, administrator, referee, custodian, lunchroom lady, superintendent of schools. They trust you because you taught them to play and to win with grace. You taught them that when they lose they could applaud the opposition and lose with courage. You taught them to hold their heads high in defeat or victory.

You taught them to look life in the eye and not back down.

You taught them to forgive when people didn’t deserve it and to love the unlovely, and to respect their elders and to protect children.

You taught them the difference between “lend” and “borrow” and you corrected them when they said “me and my friends” when they really meant, “my friends and I.” You taught them to love books and stories. You showed them they are made of the same stuff as the greatest writers and heroic sports figures world has ever known. You showed them that they too could win a Nobel Prize, the Booker Prize, a Pulitzer or the Superbowl.

You told them they had it in them to be astronauts, artists, acrobats, architects or all of them all at the same time.

You gave them the greatest gift of all: your faith, your trust. You believed in them and, by believing in them, you paved the way for them to believe in themselves. You showed them that if they did none of these things, like write a best seller or score the winning touchdown or get a call from the Oslo and the Nobel committee, their value and worth as humans was unsullied, because they were loved and treasured for who they are and not because they could spin a fine sentence or write a water-tight thesis or slam dunk a ball or run like the wind or play a piano like Beethoven.

When a woman or a man who is not your mom or your dad teaches you to tie a shoelace or how to be nice or helps you read a difficult novel to the very last page and get the thrill that only reading a novel to the very last page can offer – that person gets etched into the heart of a student, forever.

And that’s you, dear Educator.

Thank you.

July 26, 2018

Friday (hearty) applause for:

by Rod Smith
  • Parents who hold demanding jobs, yet are involved in their children’s academic and sports lives.
  • Men and women who love and enjoy their in-laws and who break the stereotypes of the alienated or rejected in laws.
  • Grandparents who lavish their grandchildren with love and attention while supporting the family values treasured by their grandchildren’s parents.
  • Men and women who work the late shifts and serve their communities while most of the population are asleep.
  • Men and women who have beaten their addictions and live productive, sober lives as recovered addicts.
  • Teachers who have worked faithfully, decade upon decade, so their students may learn and grow and be equipped to find great success.
  • Bosses and supervisors who are kind, who listen, who seek to understand more than they seek to whip things into shape or to wield their power.
  • Churches and places of worship that embrace and welcome all people.
  • Single parents who are able to hold things together and provide stable homes for their children.
  • Divorced parents who are able to be kind and cooperative with their former spouses, even if it is just for the sake of the children they co-parent.
  • Men and women who deal graciously with the pain of the distance of having family living overseas.
July 18, 2018

Good with people?

by Rod Smith

Do you want to be an excellent employee especially when working with people?

  • Look people in the eye. Listen with your whole body. Listen to others before you speak. When you do speak, speak up and speak clearly. Avoid thinking you already know what a person is going to tell you or is trying to tell you.
  • Anticipate needs and wants of your clients (customers) while simultaneously being aware that you may anticipate incorrectly. It’s a fine balance. When you near perfection at this you will regard your work as art and not a job.
  • When faced with complaints or problems do not escalate matters, take sides, or assign blame. Focus on understanding and solving, not diagnosing.
  • Don’t chew gum at work, ever. Dress well and be well groomed, always. Shower, often (not at work).
  • Tell the truth efficiently and kindly. A good reputation, which can take years to build, can be permanently ruined with one lie.
  • Don’t date co-workers or anyone with whom you work. You’re at work to earn a living not find a spouse.
  • Turn your phone off at work.

Seeking a fellow teacher: A teacher, whom I know well, wants to have her 40 students (eight and nine-year-olds) correspond with similarly aged students in KwaZulu-Natal. Teachers, please reach out to Stacy directly at SGraber@SRESDragons.org.

May 22, 2018

Grief

by Rod Smith

Grief is a complex matter. Expressing it ought to be encouraged. Stopping it up, denying its presence or refusing to express it can be downright dangerous. Lodged within, it is poison to the soul. It corrupts thinking, messes with feelings, and diminishes the capacity to experience the full range of human emotion.

The power and reward of denying it or ignoring its necessity ought never be underestimated.

If grief is in you, rather get it out.

If it seems impossible find someone who is trained to assist.

Grief unexpressed can shift personalities and be a welcome-mat for toxins to enter whole families and set whole communities off in directions they would rather not go.

Ignored grief poisons while it steers.

Un-cried tears turn to anger and anger transforms into walls of the heart and walls of the heart are vividly signposted with “Keep Out” and “Danger: No entry” posted on all sides.

Please, don’t tell the man or woman who has suffered loss to “get over it” or to “move on” or to “man up.” Grief-suppressing exhortations that are most unhelpful.

That miscarriage, that betrayal in marriage, that loss of a child, that sudden illness that took a beloved spouse, may take years to seep into the psyche of the man or woman who has faced it, let alone make sense of it, or even ever be able to “move on” from it.

May 17, 2018

Voice – part 2

by Rod Smith

Compromise yourself, your talents and skills for no one. Be silenced or made “smaller” or rendered without a voice for no one. It is never worth it. There is no cause, no relationship, worthy of your silence.

There is no person of any rank, no spouse, boss, or spiritual leader deserving of your downplaying or silencing who you are. Only those with dark motives will seek for you to be less, minimized, diminished, or silenced.

Walk away from such small-mindedness, even if it is costly to do so.

Loving, good people will celebrate your strength, encourage your freedom, and admire your talent. Stick with such people. Stay with those who enlarge your world, not restrict, shrink, or contain it. Live fully, love fully, and speak fully.

I am weary of men and women, irrespective of who they are, who hold others captive, especially in the name of love. I am weary of spiritual “leaders” who are afraid of gifted people; of bosses who silence talented people lest their own inadequacies be revealed.

If you live above, and beyond, the damaging jealousies that surround you, you will stimulate the dreams of everyone in your circle of influence, and make your dreams come true before your very eyes – and the world will hear your voice.

May 13, 2018

I met a superhero

by Rod Smith

On Friday of this past week I met a superhero: Eva Kor. Mrs. Kor is a holocaust survivor and former victim of Josef Mengele and his infamous and ghoulish medical tests. Now in her eighties, Eva eloquently told a spellbound audience about her imprisonment at Auschwitz with her twin sister. They were 10. She told of her many encounters with Mengele, of their eventual liberation, and her subsequent life of recovery, forgiveness, and unfathomable determination.

Here are a few almost direct quotations. When your heart is simultaneously grieving and rejoicing as mine was, it’s difficult to take perfect notes:

  • Never give up on yourself or your dreams.
  • Ask yourself everyday what you can do to make the world a better place.
  • Do whatever is possible to get rid of all prejudice in your life.
  • Discover for yourself that you have the power to forgive.
  • Refuse to be a good victim. Rather forgive. Forgiveness is the best revenge. If I could forgive Mengele I knew I could forgive everyone.
  • Forgiveness is the best revenge: it works and it has no side effects.
  • Forgiveness is about you and it has nothing to do with the perpetrators.
  • People who forgive are at peace with the world.
May 6, 2018

Abandoning mother?

by Rod Smith

Somewhat of a theme has emerged of late in my private practice. I’m seeing several parents, particularly mothers, who have difficulty treating their adult sons and daughters and their families as whole, separate entities from themselves. They appear to want mothering to continue when their mothering is over.

Yes. Mothering ends.  I’ve written on this theme often in this column.

It is as if the adult women are saying, “I raised them to have wings but I did not expect them to use the wings,” or, “I gave them wings but they need me to show them how to use them and where to fly.”

I have compassion for these parents. It is pronounced for those who have lost a spouse to death or divorce and who then see the natural separation their adult sons and daughters rightfully and appropriately enjoy as another evidence of abandonment.

If the adult sons or daughters are prone to guilt they will quickly capitulate to the pressure to take care of mother and/or come under her control. This will often expose stresses and stimulate conflict within the marriage.

It’s even more complicated when both spouses each have a parent who inflicts a couple with such expectations.

Am I suggesting abandoning mom? Of course I am not.

Remain loving, remain out of control, and remain connected. That’s what loving adults do. 

Write to RodESmith122@gmail.com

April 22, 2018

Grief and grieving

by Rod Smith

Grief and grieving is a life-long process. If you have suffered great loss, the death of a spouse, parent, child, or sibling, marriage, a deeply-bonded relationship, recently or decades ago, do not be surprised if:

  • You are still not over it. Some losses are never fully grieved and will leave deep scars and escape healing or recovery or closure. This is all true for you despite what you have read and heard about “time heals.”
  • Others, even people close to you, expect you to “move on” when there are days you feel as crippled by the loss as if it just happened. Consequently, you develop a story about why you are having a bad day because, if you confess your actual experience, you know you are tiring those who think you should have “moved on by now.”
  • You feel guilty when you do sense freedom from the loss and you feel guilty when you don’t.
  • You sometimes dream about the person whom you grieve and in the dream you know you are dreaming and want the dream to last forever. Waking up from the dream feels like a letdown of immense proportions.
  • You measure your life in terms of “before” and “after” the loss of a person you love or the relationship you had.
April 15, 2018

Monday’s prayer upon rising

by Rod Smith
  • May I be a source of healing rather than of hurt or injury.
  • May I value other people more than things.
  • May I apologize sincerely and efficiently when I wrong others.
  • May I be immovable about matters of my integrity but understanding when others fall short.
  • May I give my full attention when I am in conversation with others and listen more than I speak.
  • May I become the most generous and optimistic person I know.
  • May I learn to avoid using and believing damaging stereotypes.
  • May I resist knee-jerk reactions to issues of race and equality.
  • May I bring optimism to others when they most need it.
  • May I learn to avoid gossip or saying things that are unhelpful or untrue.
  • May I learn to promote the strengths of others.
  • May I learn from losing and not gloat in victory.
  • May I give my children all the freedom necessary for growth and adventure.
  • May I learn to be a listening ear.
  • May I learn to live fully in the present while designing a great future and valuing my past.
  • May I enjoy deep connection with others and necessary separation from others.
February 22, 2018

How much do I tell my sons?

by Rod Smith

“My sons are 14 and 11 and are both very close to their grandmother. They know their grandmother is facing some serious health issues. I try to guard them from the harsh realities but I also don’t want to cover up the truth. My mother is a very positive woman and wants to include them in conversations about her health. What do you think?”

I’d suggest you trust the strong bridges you have all already built toward each other for many years.

Tell your sons about your impulse to guard and protect them from what is happening in the family.

Talking about how you want to shield them is as important as the conversations about their grandmother’s health. Open conversations are a means of offering support and love and will feed the hope you all share. Invite your mother to share as much as she is comfortable with sharing and invite her to do it with or without your help or presence.

Meaningful and kind and considerate conversations help families breathe and the legitimate inclusion of your sons will not only help them play their significant role in their immediate community but also prepare them to love and support you and their own families in days to come.