Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Reaching Out to an Ailing Loved One

DEAR HARRIETTE: I just learned that my godfather has pancreatic cancer. He is a very private man, so I don't want to offend him by saying anything wrong, but I definitely want to contact him to see if I can do anything to help. I don't think his illness is a secret. My mother told me about it. I am scared, and I don't know what to do. Everything I have read about this disease is horrible. How can I be a good goddaughter to him at this terrible time? We don't live in the same town, so visiting him is not an immediate option. -- Eggshells, Racine, Mich.

DEAR EGGSHELLS: You are thoughtful to be concerned about not embarrassing your godfather or invading his privacy. What's most important is that you let him know that you are thinking about him and that you love him. By all means, pick up the phone and call him. Ask him how he is doing. He will tell you whatever he feels comfortable sharing. Tell him about your life and what you have been doing of late.

The simple act of sharing your own joy and experiences can be fulfilling, and it has nothing to do with your godfather's illness.

Before you get off the phone, ask him if there is anything you can do for him. If he does give you a recommendation, be sure to act on it immediately. And be more attentive. Call him once a week. Plan a visit in the near future, if he would like that.

DEAR HARRIETTE: I voted in my city's local primary elections like I always do, and I'm bummed. None of my candidates won. I feel deflated. I know that there's no magic wand you can wave to get your candidate, but I am not nearly as excited now that my candidates lost. How can I become more enthusiastic about the political process? Honestly, right now I feel like it is a waste of my time to even vote. -- Disheartened, Queens

DEAR DISHEARTENED: Part of the democratic process is that more than one candidate runs for elective office. In the primaries, there are even more candidates so that citizens can select within their party for the "best" candidate who will oppose the "best" candidate from the other party in the general election. Naturally, not every candidate wins.

What is exciting about our process is that we do have choices and we have the freedom to vote for our choices. No, our candidates don't always win, but just look at some other countries around the world where the political process does not allow the citizens to vote for their own choices. Our system is not perfect, and there will be plenty of times when we become disappointed, but we enjoy the freedom of choice that is elusive for millions around the world.

To become more enthusiastic, consider volunteering for your political party of choice or for a particular candidate. Know that you may not always win, but by immersing yourself in the system, you will learn how it works and how it can be improved. Get involved!