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We all need someone to count on

If a situation calls for affirming words or tender acknowledgments, what do you say?

“It depends on the circumstance,” you might respond.

Yes, it does. But when we receive unexpectedly unsettling or sad news, there are certain phrases that can usually be used reliably. “I’m here for you,” is one.” “You are in my heart,” might be another.

There are viral 30-second videos rolling across the internet that display affirmation. One features two golden retrievers sitting side by side. One gray-nosed dog nudges closer and closer to the other, wrapping a lanky front leg under and over the other dog’s leg and then reaching both front legs around the sad-appearing dog next to him in something that resembles a hug. It is all set to music and the song is Bruno Mars’ “Count on Me.”

“You can count on me like one two three. I’ll be there. And I know when I need it, I can count on you like four three two. You’ll be there. Whoa, whoa. Oh, oh. Yeah, Yeah.

Last year our grandson took a catapulting fall off his bike and was bruised from nose to toe. I sent him the golden retriever video and a big box of homemade chocolate chip cookies. He knows he can count on me. A close relative was diagnosed with a life-threatening cancer. I sent the video to his wife. And she sent it to their children.

We just moved into a new community and, even in a pandemic, our new neighbors have quickly become new friends. Once masks are no longer needed, we may need to reintroduce ourselves, as I have no clear idea of what some of them actually look like, but their gracious, appropriately distanced welcome was extraordinarily affirming.

If your candidate of choice prevailed in this week’s election, a thoughtful affirmation of someone whose candidate(s) did not win might be in order. As a personal note, on Election Day I received a much-forwarded thank-you card from the women of a Presbyterian church where I had given a presentation in 2016 — wishing me happiness in my relocated life. An affirmation of the highest order.

An authentic affirmation whether written, spoken or set to music is a gift. As we get older there are increasingly more occasions to give that gift. Our age peers become ill or pass on. Life takes abrupt turns and twists. Things distract and absorb us, and we may forget to reach out to someone we have not seen for a long time but know is going through tough straits.

Some people do acknowledgments and affirmations better than others. As are many elders, my mother was masterful at giving written thanks. She had elegant script and always seemed to capture something tender about a recent visit or the special joy of a gift she had received.

Some people think George Bush (the first one) was elected because he carried a box of cards with him at all times and reportedly wrote brief personal notes of acknowledgment immediately following an encounter.

Be advised, this is powerful stuff. You can count on that.

Sharon Johnson is a retired health educator. Reach her at sharjohn99@google.com.