January 21, 2020
“Dear Smith Family,
CONFESSIONS TO MY FAMILY BY A 90+ YEAR OLD MAN FOLLOWING A WALK TO EMMAUS RETREAT
Last evening, I returned from the Minnesota Walk to Emmaus weekend retreat. I was part of the team that were leaders for the weekend. I was a table leader and gave one of the 15 talks that were presented over the weekend. My talk was titled “The Body of Christ”. It took a lot of thought creating the 23-minute speech. The talk was well received and was based primarily on 90+ years of my life. If any of you would like to get a copy of the talk, let me know.
Because of the preparation and presentation of the talk I have some thoughts I would like to share with you, my family. I will try to segment my thoughts by bullet points, which I hope will lead to an easier read.
- First, I have been a very blessed man. Few people have had the opportunities, good health, challenges and rewards I have had in my 90+ years.
- I was blessed to have had the parents I did. I was born just before the “great depression” started. They told me how difficult their early years of marriage were, but I can’t fully understand how difficult it was to have me and try to survive financially and emotionally. They were also blessed to have had supportive families.
- Through my 90+ years I can tell many stories. Some of my stories tell of great joy and others came with great challenges. During all these many years I have felt guided by God to help me make my decisions. On Friday, January 17, 1986 I came as close to death as I ever will. God saved me from crashing my plane when I lost my alternator and ran into freezing rain during my night flight from Helena, Montana to the Twin Cities. I believe God had more work for me to do in my life.
- It was a blessing to have been raised on the Pine Ridge reservation. That exposed me to a different culture and to a minor extent how it feels to be an “outsider” or a minority. Wandering in the Badlands of South Dakota by myself became part of my DNA.
- School was very difficult for me. Dyslexia wasn’t heard of in my early years, but I think I had it. I learned that if a person lets themselves become a victim of poor reading skills, it can be a curse all your life. If you want to be a hero, you persist and work harder and in your own way survive and move on to the next challenges in life you will have.
- Jane Beck played an important part in my life. We married far too young; I was two weeks shy of being 21. We had five healthy children, for which I will always be grateful. Our marriage didn’t last, and I must accept some blame. Jane was one of the early disciples of the “women’s movement” and I had difficulty accepting this cultural change.
- Going through Jane and my divorce was the most difficult period in my life. To be single, raising three sons, trying to survive financially, and having no local family support was very challenging. Following a very difficult day, Annie Harlan, put a note on my pillow that read, “You may not think anyone loves you, but God loves you”. That note was a simple act of kindness that we all need to act on when opportunities present themselves.
- The greatest gift God has given me has been to share my life with Mary Ann, now for over 50 years. When we first met, thanks to Maribel’s help, I had been a single parent for nearly 5 years. Apparently five years was in “God’s time”. I can’t say that we never had differences of opinions, but I can say there is no one’s judgment and counsel I trust and respect more.
- During the past year I have been very concerned about the possibility of losing Mary Ann because of the aftereffects of her stroke. Her recovery isn’t complete and the thought of losing her has been on my mind every day. No person in my life has ever brought me more joy than Mary Ann. I am grateful to God for bringing Mary Ann into my life. We both need a lot of family support during our later years. Simple check ins to see how we are doing will always be greatly appreciated.
- I have been blessed to have had good careers and I felt guided by God in my employment opportunities. I have always liked people and am interested in developing relationships with customers, and people in general. In sales and marketing the most critical value is to find out what the customer wants, not what the company wants, or I want. That also goes for life in general. If my primary interest is to benefit myself, it is difficult to develop a lasting relationship.
- Now that I have recorded a lot of personal history, I will reflect on my weekend Walk to Emmaus. I have been involved with Walk to Emmaus for over 22 years. Here again, I believe God guided me to participate in the Walk to Emmaus. I have shared the knowledge and experience with good friends and some of my family. The participation has been life changing for me. I do not believe that a person can live a long and happy life without a sound spiritual foundation.
- One of my major family concerns is that I do not see many of my family participating in spiritual growth. The family is made up of good people and they have good values, but I don’t see them growing in their faith. In my opinion, if you are going to have a long and happy life you need to grow in knowledge in all areas; career, physical, mental, spiritual, and communications. In other words, we all need lifelong learning.
- God has blessed me with the long life I have had. One of my blessings has been to share memorable family trips with the family. So many families are torn apart by life’s conflicts. One of the best books I have read has been, “Forgive for Good”. Its primary emphasis is that there will always be differences and there can be hurt feeling but if we don’t forgive, we only hurt ourselves. Maybe the other person doesn’t even know they have done something hurtful. Focus on money can also be very destructive to family relationships.
- I’m not sure many of my family will use the Smith Family Mission and Vision and the family values statements but if they do, I hope they will know they were put together with the deep love I have for my family. If they do consider them, it is possible they can live a long and happy life and be as blessed as I have been.”