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By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

Everyone has a social cup that they need to fill. Some have cups the size of shot glasses or even thimbles and can satisfy their need for social interactions with a few exchanges of pleasantries on a walk or by picking up the phone and dialing friends in town or across the country.

Each day, these people meet their own social needs with relative ease and without spending much time looking family, friends, neighbors and even strangers in the eye and telling their tales.

Others, however, need to fill large mugs that may be the size of enormous water bottles. They need to hear and tell jokes, to exchange thoughts and ideas, to laugh with others about their jobs, their kids, or the successes and failures of their cooking efforts, their favorite teams or the unbelievable acts of kindness or insensitivity they have witnessed.

Recently, my wife and I listened, outside and while socially distanced, to a friend of ours who lives with a larger social cup describe the abject misery he feels from working at home. The conditions don’t bother him and his children, who are grown up and living their lives and aren’t wandering into the picture when he gets on a zoom call.

For him, the challenge resides in the lack of contact with other people. When my wife and I suggested he call college friends and reach out to other people, he said he’d tried, but part of the problem is that they don’t have much to discuss.

Part of the problem is the Groundhog Day nature of his and everyone else’s life. Sitting at home and working, and taking a few breaks a day to walk his dogs, he hasn’t lived the way he’d like so he can gather the kinds of stories that refill that cup.

Later in that same week, my wife and I were flicking through the channels and saw CNN deriding President Donald Trump (R), while Fox was supporting the president and tearing into the presumptive Democratic challenger for the presidency, Joe Biden.

We have long lived in the world of outrage culture, where what passes for news and analysis has become an opportunity for experts to rip an issue, a person, an idea, a movement or anything apart that they can.

I picture the TV producers looking at their line up of articulate but angry people in suits each morning, trying to pick the best one to stir the pot, rile up the viewers and warn the world about the dangers that await them.

We don’t have many modern day versions of Mr. Rogers because calm, cool and collected doesn’t play as well as outraged and angry.

But, here’s the thing: people at home who haven’t filled their social cups may direct their discomfort and angry energy in destructive ways.

I get it: angry people with strong opinions likely bring in strong ratings for news organizations that have become instruments of advocacy. After all, few people sold newspapers or watched TV shows without a hint of drama or conflict.

In our lives, however, we have enough of conflict and drama, thank you very much.

With people struggling to deal with so much uncertainty and isolation and holding empty and dried out cups that reflect how much they miss familiar contact and connection, a soothing and calm presence that supports solutions rather than tearing down other people’s ideas, is far preferable to shows that foment anger.

With a contentious election on the horizon in which some portion of the population will be utterly crestfallen after the electoral votes are counted, we need news organizations to offer the kind of hope and solutions that doesn’t make people feel as if they’re holding an empty cup.

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was making a supermarket list the other day. It had the usual items: eggs, milk, cereal and yogurt. Then it occurred to me that we could use a box of low-fat, high-fiber humor.

Yes, I know Nestlé, Keebler and Procter & Gamble don’t make boxes of such guffaw and giggle-inducing goods. Sure, they have cute animals who endorse their products, offering us a pleasant image while we shovel the latest sugar-filled calorie bomb into our mouths, feeding addictions that satisfy our taste buds even if they push out our stomachs.

But what we need these days, particularly as we confront our differences regularly, is a shared laugh.

Americans may be innovators, we may have significant military might and we may be a beacon of democracy, most of the time, but we also have a long and comforting history of humor.

Back when my father was terminally ill many years ago, I recall sitting with him in a living room with dark wallpaper, watching “The Court Jester” with Danny Kaye. As Kaye was struggling to remember where the pellet with the poison was, my father broke into a smile, laughing through a scene he’d watched dozens of times.

Laughter, as the saying goes, is the best medicine. After all, actor Tom Hanks was in the TV show “Bosom Buddies” and the game show “Make Me Laugh.” He took serious roles later and has become the go-to guy for dramas like “Bridge of Spies,” but he attracted attention in his early years by dressing as a woman to live in a cheaper apartment building. He was even the star of the forgettable comedy “Bachelor Party.”

Sure, these days “Saturday Night Live” is making some people laugh. Even White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer appreciated Melissa McCarthy’s anger-ridden impersonation of him.

Now, President Trump doesn’t seem to be doing much laughing.

I suppose it’s tough to laugh on Twitter, unless you’re fond of the LOL or that emoji with the hands on the face. How much coverage would a presidential tweet about an intentional act from Kellyanne Conway get?

Remember back in the 1980s when, in the midst of the Cold War, Ronald Reagan would assure us that we could sleep well at night because he clearly did. If he wasn’t especially worried, and he wasn’t looking harried the way his predecessor did, surely we could sleep well? After all, resting and relaxing were a part of life, even during the Cold War. He smiled, he waved and he had everything under control, offering an easy laugh during tough times.

Trump has reason to smile. No matter what The New York Times, CNN or other news organizations he hates write about him, the stock market loves his laissez-faire policies toward business and regulations.

But Trump doesn’t seem pleased or to be riding a wave of good feelings and good humor. He needs to laugh with us as much as we need to laugh with each other. Of course, he needs to do his job, take his responsibilities seriously and do what he can to deliver on his promises. After all, even the world-is-coming-to-an-end New York Times would have to write about more jobs and greater prosperity for America.

Maybe, along the way, though, we could all use a good group giggle. The TV programmers understood the value of a guffaw long ago. They put talk show hosts on late at night because that’s when we need to chuckle the most, before we go to bed. Seinfeld, the cast of “Friends,” and many of our former acquaintances from sitcoms offer a comforting shield against the worries, anxieties and frowns that pester us during the day.