December 16, 2019

How to be good

by Rod Smith

The Mercury / Tuesday

How to be good – a personal challenge for you, and especially for me…

1. Focus on your most immediate relationships. Do the kind thing, the right thing, and the honest thing, with the people closest to you. No one can be really good if he or she is only good to the people whom he or she knows only casually. It is easy to come off to strangers as a great or wonderful person when at the same time you are treating those who live and work with you with less than perfect respect. Being good begins at home.

2. Focus on being faithful to yourself and others. This is more than honesty, sexual fidelity, or financial integrity. It’s about all that AND it’s about protecting the reputations of others, standing up for what is right. It’s speaking up about matters of justice at times when it is much easier to remain silent and anonymous or remain out of the fray. Faithfulness is a heart condition.

3. Focus on setting the trend, on determining the tone, on deciding to lead in precarious or difficult situations. Lead, rather take your cue from others, or allow people’s seemingly natural negativity to determine your responses. Leading anything, especially for goodness’s sake, takes remarkable courage.

December 9, 2019

Your family is organic…….

by Rod Smith

Mercury, Tuesday……

Your family is ORGANIC.

It’s a living, growing entity.

While all sane parents want to do what is good and right for their children, we get into trouble in our parenting when we look for sure-fire formulas, quick fixes, rigid rules, easy solutions.

Children enter the organic system jam-packed with POTENTIAL and our challenges as parents are multifold:

To –

• engage without manipulating

• encourage without indulging

• discipline without squelching

• protect without over-or-under protecting

• be aware without prying or policing

• love without worrying

• help without over-functioning

• be present without dominating

• get “out of the way” without disappearing

Your child is probably stronger than you think, more resilient than he or she may appear, and probably wants more and more “space” to be, to grow, to discover, than he or she is letting on.

December 9, 2019

Five things I know about divorce

by Rod Smith

The Mercury

Divorce is as war. It is rare indeed for things NOT to get really ugly even with people who appear reasonable, amicable, and when both parties desire the divorce and still claim they love each other.

Divorce turns children into diplomats, negotiators, tight-rope walkers, no matter how much the divorcing parents try to avoid this from occurring. It is better accepted than denied.

Divorce is sometimes necessary, even unavoidable. It is necessary where there is on-going infidelity, violence, cruelty. It is necessary for “the persistent, slow murder of a woman” through the covert and overt controlling behavior of a jealous or possessive husband. I am sure there are men who are victims of this pathological behavior. In my limited experience it has always been the woman.

Divorce challenges the couples’ long-term friendships with people the couple knew under happier circumstances. It takes great wisdom and courage for “outsiders” to remain neutral. These connections often do not last. Sides will be taken.

While many couples try to resist involving lawyers it is my opinion that person is better off using his or her own lawyer. I have known several couples who admit that remaining married might have been easier than being divorced. Divorce may solve some aspects of a couples issues but it also creates issues of its own.

There is life after divorce – it just may take a while to really find it. Patience, patience, patience.

December 6, 2019

I want my children…….

by Rod Smith

The Mercury

I want my children….

• To know and to love the world and to be as comfortable and free abroad as they usually are in their neighborhood and always are in their home.

• To be aware and proud of their race and history without allowing the bigots of this world to determine anything about their futures or to wield any power over my sons at all.

• To know and to love a small group of peers and to discover the power that friendship has to shape and inspire.

• To live in respectful, equal, and mutual intimate relationships where they are challenged to speak their minds, explore their hearts, share dreams, and understand and deploy the qualities of mercy, freedom, reciprocity, and creativity.

• To understand the power generosity, forgiveness, and hospitality have to heal the scars of meanness, madness, and cruelty.

• To understand their boundaries and have growing knowledge of who they are and who they are not, what they can and cannot shape, what they are and are not able to control.

• To have a growing, vibrant faith that includes, loves, accepts, and learns from those who mainstream faiths have, very unfortunately, traditionally rejected or marginalized.

• To have “unconquerable soul(s)” – heads that are “unbowed” and to become people who are unafraid as they learn to be “master(s) of their fate” and “captain(s) of their soul(s)” (INVICTUS).

December 5, 2019

Naming my fears

by Rod Smith

Sometimes my fears are loud, dominating, even crippling. Usually, they whisper or lurk beneath the surface.

If one of my sons calls unusually late at night my anxiety surges. It subsides when he expresses a typically benign request. Sometimes one calls just to say goodnight.  

A really large tree fell on our house once and sometimes I fear it happening again. Although not enough to avoid certain foods, I fear my arteries clogging. I fear my children rebelling in ways costly to all of us, although neither overtly reveals harmful inclinations.

My fears, perhaps like  yours, are linked to experience, to regrets, to horrible mistakes, and therefore they do make some sense.

My more subtle, even ominous fears, are about living with my successes as if there are to be no more. I fear my age rendering me invisible. I fear my sons treating me like I treated my dad when I was their age. I don’t fear a heart attack as much as I fear living halfheartedly. I don’t worry as much about a tree falling on our home as much as I do about living in one that is unwelcoming to strangers.

Naming my fears, I find, fuels my faith.

Let me know yours, please. 

December 2, 2019

Some boys want to be like their daddies

by Rod Smith

I wasn’t the child who wanted to be like his daddy.

I am now.

As a boy I could see only his failings. As a man, I see his successes.

His addiction to alcohol ruined so much.

When I was 12 he went to Alcoholics Anonymous and got sober.

It took me quite a few years to see that he was sober for much longer than he was a drunk. It took me longer to find out that In his sobriety he helped many, many men re-establish their broken lives as they too joined AA and had my dad as their sponsor.

Also, he was also ripped off a lot.

But, here’s the thing, he almost always knew it. The people who ripped off were seldom fooling him.

As I assess his apparent willingness to be ripped off I know it was always attached to a perceived need. I know because I heard the debates.

“Yes,” he’d say to our mother, “I know they probably won’t pay the loan but there are children involved.”

Of course no one wants to be ripped off but I am not sure he was given that he was a willing accomplice with a benevolent goal.

These are just two of about 12 reasons I want to be like my dad.

November 19, 2019

Thanks teachers, librarians, coaches, counselors

by Rod Smith

The Mercury / Wednesday

Thank you, teachers, librarians, school counselors and sports coaches:

• You have given treasured memories to our children and to the parents when we ourselves were children. Your names come up at random times. We speak of what we learned from you. It was easy to believe you knew everything about everything and it was comforting and encouraging to believe someone did.

• You have corrected, cajoled, encouraged, and willed our successes. You believed in us when it was often very hard to believe in ourselves. And then, most of us did – at least at some point in this magnificent journey.

• You have created a warm welcome into a warm environment – a home-from-home – when at times home itself was neither warm nor welcoming. When parents were at war with each other your classroom was a haven of safety. You, yourself, were a safe place when it seemed there was none.

• You made transitions a part of life and then we discovered that they really are a part of life, right to the very end.

• You modeled good manners, you promoted the values of good, hard work; you imparted age old values in a world that seems bent on trying to escape them.

November 18, 2019

Do your children a few favors:

by Rod Smith

The Mercury / Tuesday

Do your young and older children a few favors*

• Get out of the way so your children can learn to forge their own paths.

• Resist the urge to speak for your children especially when others (teachers, coaches, other adults) are engaging them in conversations.

• Trust life itself to teach valuable lessons. You can probably reflect on your life and acknowledge that some of the most valuable lessons you have ever learned you learned on you own. You might agree that the best attempts of your parents to teach you these same lessons probably failed.

• You may have noticed parents who seem to be afraid of and even intimidated by their children. Combat this. It’s unhelpful and unnecessary in every direction. You are the parent your son or daughter needs. Backing off in fear or in hoping to remain popular (or for whatever odd reason) helps no one.

• Learn to hold your tongue. Not everything you think or feel has to be said. This is especially necessary when you are stressed by matters unrelated to your children.

• Speak your mind but give yourself room to think before you do. Blurt out good news but if you are sitting on a difficult or tough message allow yourself time (usually 24 hours) to offer your approach time to mellow.

• Show up for events, sports, shows, and presentations. Your support will be appreciated especially if you are well behaved. You may have noticed that some parents are not.

* As always I am my first reader.

November 14, 2019

Three pivotal truths

by Rod Smith

Mercury Friday

Note to self:

Love and control cannot live in the same relationship…. it’s one or the other. You can’t have both. You don’t “allow” your spouse or your close friends more freedom, anymore than you “allow” wild birds to fly, or the seasons to change, or the morning to follow the night. Freedom is a divine gift. Caging, or restricting another, or manipulating another, (and often it is done in the name of love) is the very antithesis of love. It kills relationships. Sometimes the death is slow, sometimes it’s quick. But, it is never helpful.

Generosity, forgiveness, and hospitality, are among the most powerful gifts people can offer each other. Give freely and your heart will grow, your courage will multiply, your chances at true happiness will all-the-more likely become yours.

Chasing more education, committing time and energy to a small group of friends, finding a place to regularly serve and love others, will cumulatively, add greater meaning and happiness to your life, far more than any acquisition usually associated with happiness. It’s not in what you’ve got or what you have not got – it’s found in who you serve, who you love, and within the joy of constant discovery and learning.


Unrelated pic: this is from a year ago. I’ll be forever grateful to the pack of young men (these and several others) who immediately embraced Nate on our arrival in this new city. Thank you, Gentlemen:

November 11, 2019

My hopes for you today

by Rod Smith

The Mercury / Tuesday

May your heart be renewed and full of great expectations and may it be resilient enough to embrace those who are unfamiliar with a warm and indiscriminate welcome.

May you know and see and experience the goodness of which you are capable and have the courage to let it have its full way with you.

May you have childlike eyes and may they be filled with joy and wonder as you allow them to see familiar things in new ways.

May your thoughts dwell on the goodness around you and may you spread the goodness you enjoy and focus on your great and healthy future.

May your words be soft and sweet and encouraging, while, at the same time, you remain unafraid to speak your mind with courage and conviction.

May your hands be open to give and receive. May your the touch be gentle and comforting on the lonely and those who are afraid and may your touch bring comfort and healing and kindness and relief to those who most need it and who may least expect it.

May your friendships deepen and expand and may all malice and contempt from you, and for you, cease.