April 18, 2021

Before you head off to bed tonight……

by Rod Smith

Sometime today…….*

• Reach out and make a new acquaintance. Look for the possibility of finding a new friend. It will take a moment of courage and potentially offer you a joyful return.

• Drop a note in traditional mail to someone who is not expecting to hear from you. Recall a wonderful and shared memory. It will take a moment of effort and offer you unexpected joy.

• Reach within, see what relationship-repair you may need to offer anyone in your circle of family and friends. Get to work. Do your part in facilitating healing and reconciliation. The stronger person usually is the first to initiate.

• Repeatedly resist all urges to strong-arm others, exercise power, or get your way. You will be amazed at how relieving it is to know life will go on, you will be loved, you will be included without having to make it all happen.

• If you are really discontent in your relationships or career take some time to assess what it will take from you to find the relief and make the changes you think you want. No matter how radical the shift or necessary the change, it is possible to do it all with love and kindness and respect.

* All five embraced here. If I hit one or three – and spread them out over a few days – I’ll consider it a success.

April 15, 2021

How to spot a good person

by Rod Smith

It’s quite easy to tell who you are dealing with if you know what to look for.

Good people clean up after themselves. They tip well, open doors for others, hold back on expressing their opinions until they have heard all sides. 

They are kind to people who can do little or nothing for them. They don’t try to impress people with their wealth or accomplishments. 

Good people respect the elderly, and say please and thank you a lot. They respect experience. They listen a little more than they speak. You don’t hear them calling others idiots unless there is real and objective evidence for it and even then they are quite guarded about it. 

Good people connect with others much more than they cut people off. They don’t have a relationship scrap yard. They give others the benefit of the doubt. Rumors stop with them. 

A real clue to trustworthy people is how they treat immediate and extended family. A man who speaks poorly to his elderly mother is probably quite brutal to lots of people even if he tries to hide it. 

That’s the odd thing about us. 

We leave clues about who we are all the time and believe me, I don’t always like the tracks I leave.

April 14, 2021

Driving While Black

by Rod Smith

For my sons and your sons and daughters……… required more in some locations than in others.

Driving While Black

Coaching my son about being stopped by a police officer has been among the saddest and hardest conversations we’ve had to have. Share, correct, help….. I’m always (I hope) open to learning:

It has been my observation that people drive as they live.

Fundamental 1:

As the driver you are in charge of the vehicle. This is very important. When I am your passenger I am a passenger. Even though I am your dad and even though I’ve been driving for over 40 years YOU are in charge of the car. The car and all that happens in it is your responsibility when you are the driver. Let your friends who may be riding with you know this if it is necessary. Usually it is not.

Fundamental 2:

If you are calm and you take care of yourself and you have a good attitude about life in general, your driving will not appear erratic or rushed or aggressive and you won’t attract undue attention. If you are ducking and diving in life you will be rushing, weaving in and out of traffic, showing off behind the wheel.

People drive as they live.

If you are erratic in life you will be erratic as a driver and you will attract the kind of attention that will get you stopped.

Drive to get places. That is all. Do not drive to express anger, get even, or to show off. This kind of driving is dangerous and it is this kind of driving that attracts attention. It’s the kind of driving that will get you pulled over.

Fundamental 3:

As an African American young man your chances of being pulled over for little or no reason by the police are higher than they are if you were Caucasian and if you were Caucasian and older.

This is a sad reality in the Midwest and this is the reason we have had so many discussions about it.

Keep this in mind – it will be worse in some areas of the city and the state and you already have had some experience of this sad reality at your young ages. Remember when you went driving with a close friend of ours and when we went shopping for skateboard wheels.

Let’s move on….

If you see flashing lights, hear sirens, or see any emergency vehicle (police, fire truck, or ambulance) traveling in any direction, do everything within your power to pull over to the right as safely and as efficiently as possible.

Join the traffic once the vehicles have passed and are closer to their emergency.

If indeed the siren and the lights were coming after you, just as soon as you are aware that it is you who is being stopped, do everything possible to stop as quickly and as safely as possible.

No exceptions. No exceptions.

From the very second you are aware it is you who is being stopped, you are to do nothing but implement a safe stop as efficiently and as safely as possible.

Stop the car.


Take a deep breath.



Do not open the car door or make any sudden movements.

Open the driver-side car window. Put any music off. Place your hands at “10 and 2” on the steering wheel.

If you have passengers they are to be still and quiet. No jokes, no banter.

Remember, you are in charge of the vehicle.

Greet the officer with a polite and calm voice, making eye contact if it is possible. It is usually not.

Try to establish the mood or the attitude of the officer and do not match it if it is in any manner brusque or aggressive. Things will escalate very quickly if you are terse in return with a terse officer.

Here is a good opportunity to exercise the “opposite spirit” – ONLY if the officer is being unkind or yelling or brusque in any manner.

It is your job to be quiet and polite and kind NO MATTER WHAT.

Every action has an equal and opposite reaction and so DO NOT be combative in any manner, even if the officer is.

You both know several local officers very well and they know you well. In every case and without exception, they are very decent and wonderful men. I am sure the women are too, we just don’t know any personally.

The officer who may pull you over is just as likely to be a very good person. He or she is probably a parent and a loving partner and also wants to get home safely.

Once you have been pulled over it is likely the officer will ask you for three things: your driver’s license, your proof of insurance, and proof of the car’s registration – and you will routinely know exactly where all three are in your car and you will request permission to retrieve them.

Tell the officer where they are in the vehicle and that you’d be happy to get them from the glove compartment.


Once you have handed over your papers it is likely that the officer will go back to his or her vehicle and “run” your information through the on-board computer and return with your documents.

He or she will probably tell you at this point why you have been pulled over and will either give you a ticket or let you go.

Be very polite either way. No banter, no arguing.

It is very important that you remain respectful and kind and obedient and that you follow all instructions without question.

When the encounter terminates and you are permitted to go, thank the officer if things have gone in your favor or not.

Drive away safely from the scene and come home.

April 4, 2021

In your nation and mine

by Rod Smith

The Mercury / Monday

All over your nation and mine teachers will get up this morning and head to schools and universities to guide students of all ages into the beauty and adventures of learning. A child will tie a shoelace and delight a parent, or turn a phrase and delight a reader, solve a math problem and delight a teacher, or play an instrument and thrill a crowd.

In your nation and mine hundreds of millions of people will respect, honor, treasure, people of all races and persuasions. They will not return evil for evil. They will reach across political aisles and barriers and respect those who believe differently, think differently, and love differently than they do. People will engage in meaningful work, serve others, and pick up after themselves.

In our great nations moms and dads will love their children, aunts and uncles will spoil their nephews and nieces, and grandparents will longingly hope for a phone call from a grandchild or son or daughter and they will be thrilled to the core when it arrives.

In your nation and mine millions of boys and girls will watch honorable sports stars in the hopes of someday being one.

Very, very, few people today will ruin life for others in your nation and mine.

Let’s be among the millions upon millions who will do really good things today and seldom, if ever, make the news.

March 11, 2021

A reader writes

by Rod Smith

Every morning at 7am Monday to Friday I sit in a small coffee shop north of Durban SA reading your column, sometimes in full agreement, sometimes in total disagreement, but always open to new insights, advice and good thoughts. I wish I was better in so many ways ….. swearing, temper, my attitude, and could implement your training, planning, and ‘do good attitude’ but I live in the real world with real challenges both internal and external for whatever reason. I am getting better. I am trying harder and with daily reflection, daily reminders the world can be a better place at least in my environment, thanks to your input. Huge thanks from sunny South Africa.”

This letter made my day. You, sir, are exactly my target audience. You are who I imagine I am writing to sometimes when I open my computer. So, thank you. I would like to join you one morning for that cup of coffee and a chat about where we agree, and don’t. Please keep in mind that I am also trying to do better in my life and I am happy to be on this journey with you, even though we are oceans apart. This too, is the real world even though the challenges may be quite different.

March 9, 2021


by Rod Smith

You may recall as a child being seated in a car at the beachfront and you happily turned the steering wheel in the belief you were driving. The car was on rails. Your efforts, while fun, were wasted. No connection existed between your efforts and the car’s direction. The rails determined the direction. 

Your parents trusted and understood the rail and how it all worked and that’s why they were happy to strap you in and let you go.  

Families, immediate and extended, are much the same. It is almost a perfect picture of the power families have over the individual, just ask Harry and Megan! 

While most of us are not battling a thousand years of history and the deeply held traditions of royalty, we are all steering wildly only to discover there is little or no connection between our efforts and the direction our individual lives and the life of our family is taking. 

Families are powerful institutions that resist change and will even hold others in the family back if they desire too much change. 

Escaping to New Zealand won’t do it either.

Does this mean we are doomed by our dysfunctional family’s history? 

No, if you see and understand it, know how to work with it. 

Yes, if you deny it, ignore it, or think it is not so.

March 1, 2021

Wake up and decide to Love

by Rod Smith

Next time you wake up, or even today, decide you are going to be a loving person, then see what happens. It’s probably best not to tell anyone. It’s a very private, arduous journey. It’s tougher than deciding to become an ironman or ironwoman athlete when you’ve never owned a pair of running shoes or like deciding to climb Mount Everest when you’re not sure where it is and even getting to your mailbox feels like a chore. 

You may think my analogies are exaggerated or ridiculous but they are not and I have running shoes and I know where Everest is. 

When you decide to Love (capital intended) there are potholes, bumps, diversions every yard or meter. 

The largest contributor to the severest hurdles are not other people, tough circumstances, or resistance from persecutors. 

It’s me. 

I get in the way. 

I am not referring to selfishness or self-centeredness or sin any of those things we’ve all heard from pulpits and every variety of self-helpers.   

Love requires on-going authentic humility, action, and seeking the highest good for myself and others or others and myself – it doesn’t matter which I write first. 

It’s easier to google “climbing Mount Everest” than to climb it. 

With a few clicks I can watch ironman events and never leave my house. 

Learning about love or about mountain climbing. running, swimming, or cycling is not the same as doing it.

That’s what gets in my way.

February 22, 2021

Facing conflict?

by Rod Smith

Facing Necessary Conflict and considering timing, tone, intentions, and love 

If you are facing a challenging circumstance with someone, preparation time is invaluable. Barging ahead is seldom helpful. Bulldozering creates immediate resistance. Then you must face the initial circumstance and the resistance created by your lack of planning. 

Before you engage please consider:

Intentions: What do you hope to achieve? Can you express your hopes in 20 words or fewer? You may be very good at flying by the seat of your pants but preparation for necessary conflict is usually a very good idea. 

Tone: Are you on a warpath or do you come in peace? Are you sure you are barking up the right tree? When we are angry it is common to generalize all our issues into one perceived enemy. This will not be helpful.

Timing: Has enough time passed so your responses will be more objective? Are you trying to humiliate your opponent? Letting things rest for a few days usually helps shape perspectives. 

Love: No matter who your opponent is, spouse, business partner, complete stranger, you will be better off if your overriding desire is to learn more about yourself and about love. If your goal is to get even or win or defeat you are probably not ready and may need to go back to the drawing board.

February 15, 2021

To the millions of South African high school students returning to school over the next few days

by Rod Smith

It is highly likely everyone who works at your school is there because they like people and they want to assist you to be very successful. They find empowering others to be fulfilling. While teachers and coaches may really like rugby, the sciences, mathematics, or languages, these legitimate and deeply held passions probably did not draw them to  the profession. You did. Yes, you. Get to know your teachers. Let them get to know you. You are a person in a school, not a gadget on an assembly line. Teachers love to teach. When you demonstrate you want to learn, you will have life-long advocates in all who teach you and people who will readily applaud your every success.      

Your success will be built from the ground up. It’s a lesson-by-lesson, day-by-day, assignment-by-assignment journey. There will be days when you can offer more; days when you feel you have less motivation and have less to offer. Your teachers will understand this. They have similar experiences. On days you are less motivated your challenge is to remain up to date. Falling behind is dangerous. Before you can say Pythagoras, the wave of unfinished work will hit you and you’ll be drowning in unfinished work and diminishing grades or marks. Use the days you feel highly motivated to get ahead and so create a cushion for the not-so-good days.

February 10, 2021

While it is not guaranteed, you get returns on your investments

by Rod Smith

There is so much turmoil and uncertainty all around you and all around me and the causes and reasons for the turmoil and the uncertainties are many. 

Nonetheless, of these things I am convinced: 

You will find what you are looking for. You will (usually) get a return on what you invest.

Look for beauty and you will find it. Look for friendliness, it will meet you time and time again, even to the point of overwhelming you. Look for opportunities to love and to serve and you will never be short of possibilities. Be generous and others will be generous to you. Forgive, and you, yourself will find greater freedom. 

Look for rejection and it will be yours before you know it. If you want to complain and be negative you will never be short of company, it just may not be the kind of company you want to keep. Resent others for whatever reason and you will be resented. 

These are not tricks or formulas. It is the way the world usually works. 

While I do not believe for a moment that we can control all that happens to us or that somehow we are responsible when all undesirable things occur, I do believe that we are capable of projecting goodness and kindness and when we do we increase the possibility of reaping desired benefits.