July 5, 2021

How little we know

by Rod Smith

It fascinates me that we often know so little about each other and how little time we take to try to discover each other. 

Occasionally I will play the piano. 

Someone where I live, will tell me they didn’t know I played. 

When I report that amongst other places, I played topless in a flowery skirt for a lua band in Hawaii they are usually taken aback. Sometimes I’ll add that at 12 I played for a stripper named Syringa who danced with a snake.

This is what I mean. There are whole volumes of our lives that others don’t know about and we’d all be enriched (perhaps) if we took the time to find out. We are all more than we can see.

I visited a man in a care facility a while back and met a friend of his who was also visiting. All I saw about him was that he was tall, very tall. I took no time to find out anything about him. I recalled his name because when we both left the care facility the waves and cheers he got from other residents made it clear he was well known.

I was rather embarrassed when I got home and googled him.

This gracious man was a basketball star of national significance and I didn’t even know he played.

July 1, 2021

Leave things better than you found them

by Rod Smith

“Leave things – parks, campsites, picnic areas, beaches, national parks – better than you found them” is, for obvious reasons, a widely used, helpful mantra.

When applied, everyone benefits.

The communal or public facilities are left clear of litter, things are straightened out, tidied, to benefit those who will next use it. Those departing are better off for having increased awareness of the needs of others, even the needs of strangers.

It becomes a way of thinking, a lens through which we see the world, all it offers, and what we have to offer it.  Exercising such awareness and thoughtfulness leaves us all better off and offers us all a chance to grow.  

I think this principle applies also to people, to all encounters, casual to intimate.

Every encounter can be a positive one. Yes. It can. Even with that very difficult neighbor, that surly in-law, that rude guy at the post office. Your Ex.

You can make it so by how you leave it, how you clean up after yourself, how you take care of who you are and how you respond in the encounters. It’s not that I think everyone needs some kind of fixing but we can leave every encounter with grace, kindness, with an exchange that’s encouraging, even the most difficult of encounters.

June 24, 2021

Yes/No

by Rod Smith

I hope you will learn the power of a strong “yes” and a firm “no.”

May you learn 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. May you say YES especially if the opportunities involve meeting new people. May you say YES to opportunities to travel, to serve, and to build and to assist in mending broken places. May you say YES to exploring new ideas. May you say YES when you encounter opportunities to offer hospitality.

May you say NO to toxic secrets, to behavior that judges or excludes others. May you say NO to religious teachings that limit your capacity for generosity and freedom. May you say NO to anything that will delay your formal education no matter how appealing or adventurous the idea may be. May you say NO to those who disrespect you or encourage you to treat the adults around you with anything less than utmost respect and close-to-perfectly good manners. May you say NO to those who dismiss your ideas and who treat you as a means toward their disclosed or undisclosed ends.

June 22, 2021

No listening; no love

by Rod Smith

“Is every intimate relationship worth fighting for? How do you know when to throw in the towel?” 

After much first-hand experience of couples beating incredible odds (addictions, violence, serial infidelity) to revitalize devastated relationships I’m going to say YES. It is probably worth the fight. There are some essential pointers that suggest ending it may be inevitable.

Both people have to be almost equally in the battle. “Almost” because one person is inevitably more motivated than the other. It just cannot stay that way if it’s to survive and thrive. Both people have to acknowledge individual roles in the breakdown. I have no urge to “blame the victim” but it takes at least two to tangle (and tango).

Both people have to acknowledge a commitment to “on-going” truth. I don’t believe every detail of an infidelity ought be divulged but I do believe a couple can commit to “truth-from-here-on” agreement. Affairs (emotional, sexual, soul-mates-only) must end if the couple is to survive and thrive. Both people have to be willing to learn to HEAR the other person – no matter how long or painful the process. No listening; no love.

June 20, 2021

Facing Goliath

by Rod Smith

Given that it is Father’s Day I have to tell you my father was a David who had his fair share of Goliaths. He had many in all shapes and sizes and spread over many years. I’d suggest being fatherless from birth was a Goliath of sorts. I’d suggest the Second World War must have felt much like a Goliath to much of the world and to a 15-year-old boy going off to war before even needing to shave. I guess entering the Indian Ocean off a burning and sinking destroyer to find safety was certainly a frightening encounter. Floating in the ocean, protected from sharks by the oil that has surfaced from the sinking ship is not usually the safe option. Floating for hours – about 30 in all – in oil and debri and being fried in the day in the scorching sun and freezing in the night while hoping for rescue may well qualify as a Goliath. Dad said the men in the water sang “Nearer My God To Thee” and “From Sinking Sands He Lifted Me” and “Abide With Me” a lot. But, he did it. He did it all. My dad was a long way from perfect but I have noticed he was much more imperfect when I was younger than he is now. I guess he improved over time.

June 17, 2021

Did you know my dad?

by Rod Smith

Did you know my dad? He owned the tearoom near the top of Blackburn Road next to the Dutch Reformed Church, up the road from Parkhill soccer club. You may or not have known him by name but you may have been a woman in need of milk for her baby. He would have given it to you under the counter as if defying the boss which was, of course, himself. When you tried to pay he may have whispered “take the milk my dear. No baby should go without food. Keep your money for something else the baby needs.” Or, you may have wandered into the shop and said you had no place to stay for a while and he may have said “we have plenty of room here” and given you a bed for a week, a month, even longer. Perhaps you knew him because you faced addiction to alcohol and he was your Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor and he said “just for today” to you and told you he’d decided he’d no longer drink “just for today” until his pledge spanned decades of sobriety. Did you know my dad? You may not have known him by name but perhaps you went to his tearoom where he served bread, milk, kindness and good humor and wrapped the goods with the feeling that you were known, that you belonged.

June 15, 2021

Day 3

by Rod Smith

I will resist the appealing urge to mind the business of others, to spread gossip, subtle or gross, and to take on burdens that have already proven too much for people more equipped, wiser, stronger than I.

June 15, 2021

Father’s Day Gifts?

by Rod Smith

Your dad, on Father’s Day, probably wants very little from you. It’s likely he will be satisfied with a simple card, a brief note, and the words “thank you, I love you.”

The real gift you’re offering to your dad on Father’s Day is if you are living well, loving deeply, using your skills, your talents for the good of all.

That’s the gift he’s really looking for.

He’s not looking for you to give him something; he wants you to give the world something.

Offer the world about you your integrity, and you’re giving your dad a gift. Give to the poor, the lonely, comfort the mourning, put your arm over the shoulder of your own son or daughter, and you’re giving your dad an invaluable gift.

Your dad is probably not looking for what you can do for him; he’s looking at how you’re living amongst others.

That’s the real gift for Father’s Day. It’s not the cufflinks, or the new tie, or another pair of comfortable socks, as wonderful as those things might be.

Your dad is looking for how you are living your life to its full potential.

That’s the gift he really wants.

June 14, 2021

Tuesday

by Rod Smith

Day 2: I will show up but not at the expense of others. I will speak up but not silence others. I will stand up but not if it means pushing others over. There’s room and space and roles for us all. I’m designed for hard work. I will do my part.

June 14, 2021

Monday

by Rod Smith

Day 1: I am loved and capable of love. I have enough of everything I need. Generosity is in my design. I will offer grace and space to others and return to no one evil for evil. I will share even when others may want to take and dominate.