When we’re young – that is, before retirement – there seems to be plenty of goodies in Santa’s bag to satisfy even the pickiest present person.

For youngsters and teens, it’s any gizmo that’s electronic, especially if it’s a gadget fresh off the market and unlike what any of their friends may have.

For young and middle-age adults, it’s something fashionable and trendy – anything that says they’re up-to-date and engaged in pursuit of what it takes to be popular, successful and having the “right stuff” when it comes to education, experience, a career and prestige.

But what about those of us who are retired? Most of us don’t want or need the latest cell phone or electronic what-cha-ma-call-it that’s going to frustrate the heck out of us in trying to work it. And if we haven’t got grandchildren handy to teach us how to operate the device, forget it!

After retirement, who cares what we did or didn’t do in school, on our job, or in the community. We might hang on to some of our accomplishments for awhile but eventually we’re going to find ourselves left behind, forgotten and “on the shelf,” so to speak.

Am I being too negative about aging and retirement? But let’s face it. All those things we used to be so concerned about and engaged in are fading into the distance. The advancements being made in the job or career we left behind are passing us by day after day. The connections we had in our community when we needed to know something are changing as well. Ever try to find a business or a person’s address in the phone book? Ever try to find a phone book?

When we used to get together with friends we talked about our job, our children’s school activities and their future, our plans for a larger house, a bigger car, new appliances and lawn equipment, vacations to exotic places and experiences. Now when we gather with those long-time friends we talk about our health, our doctors, our surgeries and those whom we know who are not doing well.

When we travel somewhere, attend an event or engage in any activity, it seems as though everyone is passing us by. We don’t drive and walk as fast, hear and see as well or think and react as quickly as when we were younger.

What can Santa put in our Christmas stocking that will help us older folks achieve increased happiness and fulfillment?

The first gift we need is hope. Hope is what gets us up every morning and moves our feet through each day. Hope is the courage to dream and the wisdom that helps us heal. Hope is a light in the darkness. It’s positive thinking, giving us confidence that most things are going to turn out alright.

Hope is not negative, it’s optimistic. Hope is seeing the glass half-full, even if it contains Ensure. When we are hopeful, we look with anticipation on the bright side of events in our life. We live confidently and unafraid of what the future may bring.

Next, we need charity. While it’s often called love, charity is more than a subjective feeling or even an objective action of the will toward other people. It’s a virtue, which means being more generous with our time, treasure and talent. Charity allows us to give freely without expecting anything in return. We mentioned above that being retired means we’re out of the rat race, so to speak. Most of us, hopefully, don’t need to concern ourselves as much with making a living, getting ahead or raising a family.

We need to look for areas around us where we can give of our time and talent, such as volunteering at a soup kitchen, visiting residents in nursing homes and friends in the hospital. Donations and volunteers are needed everywhere from animal shelters, charities and community centers. It seems that in our busy lives nowadays many of us have forgotten how to appreciate and empathize with others. And when we volunteer our services, we move away from only thinking of ourselves.

Thirdly, I think we need the gift of making good choices. Happiness is a choice, not a trait. We ourselves elect to be happy and content, helping bring fulfillment into our lives. If we visualize the things that worked well in the past, we can apply them to help us find happiness in the future.

By the way, whether you call him St. Nicholas, Kris Kringle or just plain Santa, he’s not just going to pass out these gifts to us on Christmas morning. We’ve got to reach into his bag of goodies and take them for ourselves.

Finally, despite what I said earlier about avoiding electronic gadgets and new technology, let us be open to changes and learn new ways of doing things. Change happens every minute of the day. Happy and fulfilled people embrace change instead of trying to fight against it.

Nevertheless, let us vow this New Year’s Eve to keep our grandchildren’s phone numbers handy, just in case!

Vince LaBarbera
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Vince LaBarbera

Vince is a Fort Wayne native. He earned a master of science degree in journalism and advertising from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. LaBarbera is retired but continues to enjoy freelance writing and serving the Radio Reading Service of the Allen County Public Library. > Read Full Biography > More Articles Written By This Writer