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May 1, 2014

MAY: Counting people counts

— There is a website called statisticbrain.com that specializes in counting things. Tallies are in for this past Easter season.

The average American family spent $28.11 per family member on Easter candy. Added together, that makes for more than 120 million pounds of Easter candy purchased in our country, 70 percent of which is chocolate. (That number seems a bit low, he said, licking the chocolate off his fingers.)

Ninety million is the number of chocolate bunnies that are made each year, 76 percent of which have their ears eaten off first. The number of jelly beans made just for Easter is 16 billion. The number of jelly beans that made their way in between the cushions of our sofa when the children were young was 15.7 billion.

Speaking of billions, $2.1 billion was spent on Easter candy this year. Because of rewards and loyalty cards, many of the stores can tell who purchased what and how many they purchased. Online retail outlets often track customers and their spending habits through sophisticated technology on their websites.

If this information were made available to others, wouldn’t the American Dental Association have a target market?

Last week, we began talking about counting the days following the Passover or Easter season, looking for the things of value in our lives. The biblical tradition called this counting an “omer,” which was an ancient Hebrew measure of grain, equal to just over 3 liters.

We found that it was important to count the things that matter in life. You may have spent days last week counting some of life’s potent items. If you are counting, this is day eight of the count.

So what shall we count this week? Let’s count people. In business, people counting is used to gain insight into the product preferences and spending habits of the customer. In speech, people counting is used to craft words that will touch the listener and influence behavior. In politics, people counting provides the basis upon which the government actually represents the population.

In personal relationships, counting people helps us balance our priorities. It tells us how many people are quick contacts, passing as ships in the night. It also identifies the people with whom we spend a good amount of time. Counting these people not only tells us about them, it tells us about ourselves.

Most of us have three different types of people in our lives. One group of people leans on us. They are people who rely on us for different kinds of support. The help may come in the form of physical strength or financial assistance. It almost always involves time. It always involves emotion. These people leave us feeling drained, yet fulfilled.

Another group are those who provide us strength. These are the ones who encourage us, who teach us, who give of themselves so our fuel tank is refilled. These people recharge our battery. They renew our purpose in life. They shape our thoughts, our feelings, our resolve. These people leave us feeling directed and replenished.

But the majority of people are ones who run alongside us. We work together with them on the project. We belong to the same social organizations. We sit beside them at the program for the children. We laugh with them at the silliness of life. We hurt when they receive the news that it is cancer. We beam from ear to ear when their daughter gets married. These people leave us feeling we are not alone.

May I suggest that you start by counting these important people? Let the people who count know they count. Mister Rogers, famed Public Television children’s show host, used to sign all of his hand-written letters and emails with four powerful words: “I’m proud of you.”

Expressing your appreciation on a regular basis inspires those who receive it. The words of gratitude let them know they were noticed and not taken for granted. It challenges them to continue, to set the bar higher, to rise beyond in making a difference in the lives of others.

If you don’t know where to start, pick two people this week and let them know they count in your life. Pick one person who molded and shaped you and express your appreciation. Pick another person who walks the path with you and let them know that the journey wouldn’t be the same without them. Drop them a note. Send them an email. Text them. Call their cell.

If words are sometimes difficult for you, try starting with “I know I can always count on you.”

— Tom May is the Minister of Discipleship at Eastside Christian Church in Jeffersonville. He is an adjunct instructor in the Communications Department at Indiana University Southeast. Reach him at tgmay001@gmail.com

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