A few weeks ago, CBS broadcast a live-recorded 2020 tribute to the late great Kenny Rogers. Dolly Parton hosted the program “Kenny Rogers: All in for the Gambler.”

Rogers, who had a 50-plus-year music career with monster hits like “Lucille, “The Gambler,” “Love Lifted Me,” “She Believes in Me, “and “You Decorated My Life,” was serenaded by a variety of his friends. Toward the end of the program, Dolly and Kenny sang what at first sounded like one of those oxymoron-nonsense songs.

They had released the song back in 2013. One of the verses goes like this “You can’t make old friends; can’t make old friends; it was me and you, since way back when; but you can’t make old friends.”

The song does not refer to us making new “older aged” friends – whatever that means. Say age 40, 50, 60 years of age – I can just hear all of you groaning over that. Over the years, most of us have made hundreds of acquaintances and perhaps a few dozen close friends.

Whether you live in one place your whole life and your friends move away, or you move around the country the way we have, at any given time, most of us will have from three to five close friends.

Some people have hundreds of Facebook “friends,” but at best, most are acquaintances, and many of them we have never even met in person. At least Facebook has been an immense help in finding longtime friends we might have lost track of.

Most of what I have to say also applies to business relationships since this is a business-related column. Taking care of and appreciating your long-term customers or reconnecting to past customers is equally essential.

Whether they are relatively old or young in chronological age, long-term friends, over time, we get to know and depend on them. We build a sense of trust, share the joys and sorrows of life, and know we can count on them and their loyalty.

It might be for 10, 20, 30, 40, or more years. My father, who passed away at 94, had some friends for well over 80 years. The great columnist and radio commentator Walter Winchell summarized friendship by saying this, “A real friend is one who walks in when the rest of the world walks out.”

But as life goes along, we move, change careers, and make new friends. It makes sense for us to reflect on old friends who have grown distant, live far away, or are “lost” to us.

Genefe Navilon, author IDEAPOD, lists nine different types of old friends we should consider staying close to or reconnecting with. They include: childhood friends; high school friends; college friends; “old” old friends (those who are older than we are); old friends from work; the old “frenemy” (someone from years ago we might not have liked but time has changed them and us; family friends; the old friends you barely see or talk to; and finally; old “lost” friends you want to reconnect with.

If you are like me, just reading over the above lists floods my mind with possibilities. Since we can only do so much over a period of time, I’m starting to develop a list in each of these categories as a guide for the rest of 2021 and 2022.

First, let’s review how to stay near our current friends (or, in the case of businesses, our customers). Social media, while OK can be a real distraction. Make sure you see your friends in person, call them, remember their birthdays, show interest and concern about their family, and write them a note at the appropriate time.

Something that is challenging for so many of us is the indefinite “we need to grab coffee or lunch sometime.” But unless we set a definite time and place, it is unlikely to happen.

We can share issues and problems with our best friends but try and equally balance the relationship with cheerfulness and good news. An occasional “pity party” is acceptable, but a pitiful life outlook drives people away.

Secondly, Navilon further emphasizes some critical benefits of reconnecting. “Old friends you barely see can often give you the biggest insight on exactly how much you’ve changed. They can remind you just how much your life has progressed for the better, teaching you to be more grateful about where you are now.”

She goes on to say, “Old friends play into our nostalgia; old friends are honest; they’re like family; they know what cheers you up; they get your family, and they know who you are.”

With modern technology, there are many ways to find those long-lost friends, but using sources such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Google search is a start. And, of course, your network of current friends very often will know how to locate them.

Even reconnecting with one old friend every 2 to 3 months will be a blessing to you and them. If you are in business, appreciating your closest customers and reconnecting with past great customers will make both yours and their futures brighter and more prosperous.

Finally, remember to keep making new friends that over the years will become your old friends.

Don Daake, MBA, Ph.D. holds degrees from Kansas State University, the University of Iowa, and the Florida State University. He is professor emeritus at Olivet, where he taught for 22 years. He can be contacted through the Daily Journal at editors@daily-journal.com or directly at ddaake@olivet.edu.