01/24/2012 03:17 pm ET Updated Mar 25, 2012

I'm Really Proud of You!

As I get older, I become more nurturing of younger people. I commute by subway, and generally, I (at the tender age of 65) am the oldest person on the train. I look at the younger people -- so full of life and activity. And in spite of being an avowed nonbeliever, I pray for them. How does a nonbeliever pray? I wish them well, a life if not free from suffering, a life where they can bear life's pains. I wish them strength to face the hard things history will throw their way that I will no longer be alive to experience. I wish them peace, harmony, good home lives, satisfying work.

I also find myself becoming more nurturing of older people, people around my age, as I myself age.

At my age, most people no longer have living parents. For those that do, the pleasure of having the company of a living parent is bittersweet, almost always mixed with great loss and huge responsibilities.

I have not had living parents for over 30 years. During this time, I have had to parent myself. Now I find myself parenting others, not just my grown child, but family, friends, clients, acquaintances. Many of these people are my age.

When I talk with someone who has done something good, I find myself saying to that person, "You did a really good job. I'm very proud of you!"

This is something our parents said to us (or should have said to us) as we were growing up. This is one of the best things a parent can do -- a parent can let us know when we do well and acknowledge our efforts.

When I meet and talk to a person who, against great odds, has reclaimed a career, made an important and difficult decision, or helped another person by acting in the other's interest rather than in their own self-interest, I find myself saying to them, "I'm really proud of you!" Many of these people are in their 50s and 60s (or even older) and have no one to say this to them anymore. But they deserve to have it said and to have it said sincerely.

When a friend or relative works on a problem for months or years and solves it, I find myself saying to that person, "I'm really proud of you!" They did well, and unless they have a spouse who will say it, many of them don't have parents any more or anyone who will say those words to them.

I found myself saying these words this week to my friend, who spent two years of hard effort arranging a complicated personal transaction that will benefit many others in the future. I said to him, several times during the update on his project, "I'm really proud of you." He knew I meant it, he knew he deserved it, and it made him feel really good.

So if you find those words coming out of your mouth, don't be afraid or embarrassed to say them. Saying, "I'm really proud of you," can be the appropriate and fitting thing to say to a person at times.