Charlotte and Terry

Dr. Terry S. Smith with his wife Charlotte

President and founder of Coaching: Life Matters

http://www.coachinglifematters.org

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The following article and picture appeared on the front page of the Burlington Daily Times on December 24, 1985, in metropolitan Boston, Massachusetts. 

A man painfully remembers: years of confusion, guilt, and learning to survive in a world where hate and fear consumed his childhood.

When he was seven years old, his mother stood on the hood of the car, kicked the windshield in and cursed the boy’s father to hell.

When the boy was eight, divorce and alcoholism robbed him of his mother.  The parent’s failure, anger, and hate tore the relationship apart and another family unit fragmented.

This is a story about a mother and son coming together after eighteen years, and about the One who stirred their hearts into a love that brought healing and hope to a once broken relationship.

 

Carol, Sid, Mama, Robert and Terry

~

I had always wondered about her.  She was beautiful, but many of my memories were painful, reinforced by my father’s hatred for her.  While I was growing up, he cut me off from anyone who cared about her.

Then during my last year of graduate school, I found where she lived, discovering that in a city of 600,000 people, I was driving past her house daily.

Should I go see her?  What would she be like now?  She would be forty-five years old.  Could I understand this woman who left four young children, never again to be involved in their childhood?

She didn’t know who I was when my wife and I knocked on her door in October of 1968.  But a new journey began.

Her story was hard.  She had married at sixteen, had three children before age twenty-one.  She married five times, was an alcoholic, and currently was living with a man who was not her husband.

She hated herself.  She had attempted suicide by cutting her throat, jumping out of a car going eighty miles an hour, and by putting a gun to her head and pulling the trigger.

But, the gun misfired.  It fell on the floor, blowing a hole in the wall.  She lived!

The reunion with her son helped her to realize she could start over again.  She began to fight!  But it was like trying to climb a greased slide.  My family — a wife and two babies — now included this woman, my mother, who, after wanting to die all these years, now had a desire to live.

The failure I experienced in my childhood caused me to pursue the field of counseling to learn how to live in relationships, and not make the same mistakes my parents made.   There had to be a way to live in this world and not be victimized by failure, anger, insecurity and guilt.

People can come back together and healing can take place in relationships.  But how?  How could this woman ever have forgiven herself for leaving her children?  How could the children have ever forgiven her for abandoning them?

As a family counselor in Burlington, I have chosen, for a model, one person in history who knew how to love and treat human beings.  I find very few people who have read his life.  Not many are willing to give and extend mercy toward those who hurt them.  Not many are willing to say: “I am wrong!”; “I am sorry!”; “Forgive me!”

The little baby whose birthday the world celebrates at this time of the year grew up to be a man.  He met a woman at the well who had been married five times and was living with a man not her husband.  The man at the well treated the woman with dignity, respect, consideration, and compassion.   It changed her life.

The angels announced at his birth that he has come to bring good tidings of great joy.  The woman at the well experienced it the day she met him.  I have tested it on the streets of the twentieth century and it holds today.  My mother found hope, forgiveness, and new beginnings because this man’s evaluation of human worth represented by the heart of the God and Father of us all.

Our challenge at this season is to look past the commercialism of Christmas.  To look beyond the religious ritual, and to sense the mystery of the One who came among us to demonstrate and to give a new quality of life.

I’ve just returned from a family wedding.  It was the first time in thirty-five years the family was together.  My mother flew back with us, and will celebrate her first New England Christmas with me and my family.  We realize that we owe this reunion to the One whose perspective on life continues to bring into a dark world hope and light.

Our hearts are full of thanksgiving as we celebrate the reality of his presence.

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My mother died in the year 2000, at the age seventy-seven.  She experienced in her heart, soul, and mind, the joy of God’s peace.

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An unspoken dream
That is in everyone
A longing within
This dream articulated
In universal language

~

I had a dream as a child
I wanted a home with peace
An atmosphere of loving care
To celebrate life~

~

Moments of oneness
I remember them so well
Laughter and playing
Learning a rhythm of joy
Experienced in the child

~

I got a glimpse of it
The first seven years of life
Playing ball with the neighbors
Being held with love~

~

Children need a holding place
Of personal tender care
Where they feel safe and secure
Untouched by trouble

~

The home is the place
Where joy is at the center
Laughter the result
Forgiveness reigns all around
The freedom to discover

~

I will tell the world
That peace is within their reach
What you need first is desire
Then a clear vision
If it is there you will find it
Relationships that flourish~

~

I’ll never give up
Living peace and sharing it
It is my great joy

~

Those who want to know
Who are searching with their heart
Will certainly find
It will take your best thinking
Then faith and courage to act~

~

It is in practicing
The things that you know are true
You’ll discover more

~

There are daily practices
I’ve discovered on the way
That are essential to me
For living in joy~

~

I awoke from a dream this morning, with my heart going out to the children who long to be held, and to experience home as a safe place.  I felt that safety as a little child, although my parents as teenagers did not know how to provide it.  There was extended family, (and neighbors) who provided this safety until  my family unit fell apart.  I believe there is a longing in everyone to find a place of peace where joy sits at the center.  I want to be a part of pointing the way to this authentic life that is available to all.  These reflections came out of my dream last night, and after meditating on Proverbs 20 and John 15.

My web site:  Living as Leaders

All posts © Terry Sanford Smith

10 Responses to “About”

  1. Cheri Raines said

    Hi Terry. I so miss you and Mrs. Charlotte. I just visited your website for the first time. I love your approach to life. Personally, I understood what you were saying, yet, the Haiku allowed me freedom to interpret for myself as well. Poetry is like that. Thank you for sharing your words here. Love to you and Charlotte.

  2. Frank mcDonald said

    Terry,
    I thought about the dancing on Friday nights at the “Cat Cave” and memories flooded back of you and other of my old friends.
    I am in Saint Augustine, Florida where I have been for nearly 6 years but may be soon leaving for the Denver area. My son in law started a Philly Cheese Steak franchise and I may be going out to help him bring it into the “big time.”
    Shirley, my wife of 26 years, helps me routinely take care of two grandsons, Andrew (soon to be 3) and Harrison (not quite 2)which can be real tiring for two old folks! We love it any way.
    We have experienced some major setbacks in the past few years with the economic downturn but God is good and continues to bless us with His grace and mercy.
    keep up the good work and I’ll check back from time to time to see the new stuff!
    God’s blessings to you and Charlotte,
    Frank

    • Terry Sanford Smith said

      Thanks Frank. Great to hear from you. I remember playing Little League baseball with you. I always thought you were a great third baseman and a good dancer. I never wanted to dance with you though. 🙂 I will look forward to seeing you and Shirley at the reunion.
      I also remember dancing with your little sister who was two or three years behind us. She would come over to the “Cat Cave” in the afternoon after school.
      My brother, Sid, has lived in Denver for 30 years. He lives in Littleton area. Where is the Philly Cheese franchise?
      Thanks for the blessing. Back at you!

  3. Alyson said

    What a lovely site!
    Thank you for sharing.

  4. Terry,I thought about the dancing on Friday nights at the “Cat Cave” and memories flooded back of you and other of my old friends.I am in Saint Augustine, Florida where I have been for nearly 6 years but may be soon leaving for the Denver area. My son in law started a Philly Cheese Steak franchise and I may be going out to help him bring it into the “big time.”Shirley, my wife of 26 years, helps me routinely take care of two grandsons, Andrew (soon to be 3) and Harrison (not quite 2)which can be real tiring for two old folks! We love it any way.We have experienced some major setbacks in the past few years with the economic downturn but God is good and continues to bless us with His grace and mercy.keep up the good work and I’ll check back from time to time to see the new stuff!God’s blessings to you and Charlotte,Frank
    +1

    • Thank you, Frank. I will be visiting Ole Miss where 50 years ago I decided to set my heart to know the mind of Christ. I wanted to know how he put his pants on, who he ran around with, and If I could bellieve this “abundant life.” That was April 1961. i will speak to students at coffee house on the subject of “5 Critical Decisions.” Blessings and Peace to you.

  5. aysha said

    it is great to see how such painful childhood can create a great healer ..

    i hope to find (life coaches) more in our arab society.

  6. Angela Thomas said

    I am so encouraged by your Writings. I love how the Holy Spirit uses you as a instrument of his loving touch. Every time I read something of yours I feel God’s presence. I am a friend of Sara’s. Through her God has brought much healing to my life. She has been a cheerleader of your writing.

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