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Sat, Feb. 22

Column: Child-like joy is key to happiness

Here is another installment of Granddaddyisms I wrote to my grandson when he was a teenager.

• Your life is filled with rich experiences. Each day you have them, each class is an experience, each assignment, each contact with your friends. Your mission trip last year was a rich experience. Your upcoming trip to Uganda will be a major experience. In other words, your entire life will be one experience after another. But what is important for you to understand is that it's your response to each experience that really matters. It's what you learn that will determine what kind of life you have. The quality of your life will be enriched by what you do, but only if you actively seek to make them rich experiences.

The fateful fact is, most people do not take advantage of their life experiences. They have them, just as you do, but they fail to take the time, or make the effort, to examine the consequences of what they have done, or consider the applications the experiences have for their life. And they fail to apply what they have learned. They simply go from one experience to the next without pausing to reflect on what they have learned. You must ask yourself what meaning, if any, each experience has for me, Dylan Clark. Some experiences may not teach you squat; they are just simple experiences. So don't expect great insights or a significant lesson. Pick your spots. But do take a little time to reflect what - if anything - you have learned. Education isn't confined to schools. Your education on this planet is finished when you take your final breath. Learning is how you achieve your education. You will learn from your experiences if you choose to do so.

• Many profound thoughts and truths are wrapped in humor. Here is a favorite of mine, courtesy of Woody Allen: "More than any time in history mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness, the other to extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly."

• Perhaps one of the most important questions a person your age can ask himself (or herself) is this one: "Are you becoming the type of individual you will be happy living with for the rest of your life?"

• Let me suggest a perspective for you to consider. You're young, you're discovering, you're learning what works for you, what doesn't, what you can do and can't do. But what is really important is to understand that STAYING YOUNG is an inside job all the way - from the beginning to the end. I am a mature man, yet I still have within me a young boy's heart. When you are my age, I hope you will have one as well. That results from developing an attitude and a choice of a lifestyle that only you can make. Your body will inevitably age, but your approach to life doesn't need to. Some people get old before their time. Their mental and emotional processes age, they become overly cautious in their choices, too serious about their lives, they stop having fun, stop taking risks, they atrophy intellectually and emotionally, and become the type of person who is no fun to be around. Their lives lack excitement. Your choice, Dylan, is whether to stay alive and actively pursue life with enthusiasm and excitement or take life as it comes and let it control you. It's the difference between being proactive or reactive. Be proactive, Dylan. It's a lot more fun.

• I believe it is difficult to stay mentally and emotionally healthy if you don't cultivate and possess a sense of play. Try to retain a child-like joy and never lose the ability to have fun playing games.

Dr. Ron Barnes is a retired educator and businessman.

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