So people say they care about you; they say they love you. But who really does? And what does that even mean? Not shockingly, I have some thoughts. They’ll start dark, but if you hang with me you’ll hopefully see a redeeming value to the exploration.

Do your co-workers care? Your friends? Really care? Do your fellow churchgoers? Well, probably not all of them who say they do. Just try changing religions and see how much they want to hang out with you and care for you when you’re no longer in the club. The others, well, they really care, probably. Maybe they care enough to attend your funeral if something happened suddenly, and even cry a bit. They care enough to bring food if you’re sick. They care enough to inquire about your cancer treatments. They care enough to hang out on occasion, or go to dinner.

“But come on, Steve, what do you want from people anyway? Let’s be realistic. People have to live their lives.”

Well sure, and I’m not being critical; I’m just being truth-driven. Hang with me though, because surely someone cares. Who is it who calls just to ask how you are doing? Who actually wants an answer? Who noticed that you looked tired? Who asked about your job loss, or your big promotion, not because they wanted to feel better about their situation, or compare resumes, but because they were genuinely excited for you? Is it your family? Presumably it is your spouse? Someone else?

Got “Three-Monthers”?

One more question for you: If you die tomorrow, who is really going to be thinking of you one month from now? Stop and think about it for a moment. Three months from now? How about in one year? Three years down the pike? Many who have mourned losses know that feeling of mourning the end of mourning. The end of mourning happens, and should happen, so we shouldn’t be surprised. But I’ll argue that of those at any given funeral—and I’ve been to a bunch—perhaps only 30% will be thinking of that person a week later. Is that number low? High?

I recently wrote a blog about a friend who passed away eight years ago! Yesterday I was thinking of my father on the twenty-fourth anniversary of his death! So what? What’s your point, Steve? Well, it means I really cared, I think. Doesn’t it? It is our thoughts, our mindshare, isn’t it, that tell us how much someone means to us? Or at least how close we were to them? If we don’t think about them, we probably don’t miss them too much, do we? Harsh, but true.

Ready for some good news? Who do you not care about today, that two years from now if they died, might dramatically impact your life? Of course you can’t know; but we’ve all been there, where someone we knew just a short while enriched our lives in a profound way. So there is hope for even more beauty in your life, should you want it.

Where is all this going? Well, it’s all about perspective, as always with me. And what happens when you gain that perspective? Well, you take action. You align what you want in the end, or at least the desired trajectory of your life, with your actions. Novel concept. Hard to do.

So we’ve asked who cares about you. That’s an interesting question. I’m suggesting the answer might be depressingly few people. It may be a stadium full of people who claim to, but when you apply the one-week test you know they’re going on with their lives, as they should.

Turn It Around

Still, this exercise can also be enlightening, because the next question is the real point. Whom do you care about? Whom do you ask probing questions of, because you’re genuinely interested in their welfare? Whom do you take the time to pick up the phone and chat with a couple times a week? Who is close to you? Whose inner sphere are you a part of?

So do you see the connection yet? If we don’t invest in others, is it likely others will invest in us? If we’re not in their inner circles, is it really very likely that they should be in ours, dispensing selfless caring week-in and week-out? After you die, will they be a one-weeker, a three-monther, or an eight-yearer?

Here is your thought for the day. Would there be value in expanding your inner circle? How would the world be better off if more of us could expand our inner circles? It’s tough, I know. We don’t have time. We’re busy. Maybe we’re trying to survive and make ends meet.

I recently watched the 2006 documentary God Grew Tired of Us, about the horrific stories of the lost boys of Sudan, who fled genocide and unspeakable horrors to Kenya’s Kakuma refugee camp, where they subsisted for over a decade. Upon invitation to the US, they saw unthinkable and foreign concepts: electricity, running water, job opportunities, structure, and plentiful food. The epiphany for me, however, was the loneliness of American life. Get up, eat, go to work, and repeat. They had been horribly poor in Kenya, but they had a tribe, and a family-like social structure. How many in our modern culture are lonely? How many don’t even have many “one-monthers”?

Alternatively, maybe we just don’t care! Maybe we are fulfilled already. If that’s the case, then so be it. No sweat at all! After all, it isn’t a race to see who can have the most people at our funeral. Nobody said it was, of course; if one or two people can meet your needs, and hopefully you theirs, more power to you. Besides, nobody questions the idea that you wouldn’t want to add people who will suck your energy dry.

But keep in mind I’m not talking about some do-gooder, pay-it-forward sentiment here, but suggesting the option to expand your circle with cool people—people you enjoy. Perhaps people who have invested in you, but in whom you have not invested in return?

A Better World?

It won’t shock you, but I have a theory. The theory is that historically most jerks, cranks, perverts, crime, violence, and general assholedness could have been avoided if the persons involved had all been better loved and cared for, all along the timeline that brought them to their state of unpleasantness. My speculation also holds that many people in our culture—if not most—are lonely.

My guess is that most people do not have all their needs met. Most people could use one more person inquiring about their welfare, truly loving them, and patting them on the back—especially when they are not at the top of their game.

Could you use one more such person in your life? I know I wouldn’t scoff at such an opportunity. Do you have a good reason not to consider being that person in the life of someone else?

If we selflessly make the effort, that person wins—by way of enrichment and being cared for; at the same time, we just might add someone to our inner circle as well—someone who really cares about us. Just a thought.

(By Stephen L. Gibson, © 2009, Truth-Driven Strategies LLC; and

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