By PATTIE MIHALIK
I am among the hundreds of thousands who were thrilled with the election of the humble man now known as Pope Francis.
From the start, I've been filled with hope and admiration for his nontraditional approach to the papacy. It's always a pleasure and a breath of fresh air to read his messages to the world.
Shortly after being elected, he had some interesting thoughts on old age.
"We are in old age," said the 76-year-old pope. "Old age is the seat of wisdom," he said while speaking slowly.
"Like good wine that becomes better with age, let us pass on to young people the wisdom of life."
As I interview extraordinary older folks, I like to pass on their wisdom to readers. "Enjoy every day of life" seems to be the personal creed of each of them.
It's a simple message but it's one I believe we can't hear often enough.
My friend, Manny Bronowitz is an inspiration at 93, both because of his high activity level and because of his innate capacity for happiness.
What age has taught him, Manny says, is learning to be happy with small stuff that would never cross his radar screen when he was young.
He believes many younger people don't know how to recognize happiness. Here's what he told me about his version of being happy:
"If you see the sun coming out in the morning, that's happiness," he says.
"If you hear the raindrops on the window, that's happiness."
"If you have someone who cares about you, that's happiness."
"If you can go to the bathroom, that's happiness," he quips, showing his sense of humor hasn't dulled with age. But then he adds that he's not joking about being happy for what "young folks" would regard as a normal body function.
"The older you get," says Manny, "the more you learn to be grateful for every little thing. It's gratitude that creates happiness," he says.
I agree. The more we cultivate a sense of gratitude, the happier we are with our world and ourselves.
Following the pope's decree to pass on our life's wisdom, here's mine:
Don't be afraid of age or of dying. From the time we are born, we are dying. It's what we do in between that matters.
Give away as much love as you can.
Make sure every important person in your life knows how much you love him or her. You can never tell them often enough.
If someone doesn't love you back, love them anyway. You'll be richer for it.
The thing about love is the more you give away, the more you gain. Love is inexhaustible.
Live each day fully, and keep a grateful heart for every little happiness. Be strong. But be soft enough to see the everyday wonders of the world.
If you're looking for miracles, look around you. The miracle of life is something we take for granted. When we get older, we realize what a miracle life is and how blessed we are each and every day.
Savor each day of life, even the days that hold pain and problems because every day there are joys, too. Sometimes we get too caught up in our problems to recognize everyday joys.
If I could put a message to the world on a billboard, it would be this: SAVOR EVERY DAY OF LIFE.
Don't squander one single day of this gift we call life. Life is too fleeting to waste a day.
If we harbor hatred and grudges, if we are consumed by anger, we're squandering that gift of life because those negative feelings block our own joy and personal growth.
If we rush mindlessly through a day without savoring the small pleasures that have come our way, it's another way of squandering the gift of life.
I recently covered a motivational talk on ways to live a more rewarding life. The psychologist had specific suggestions, including writing down at the end of each day one small moment of pleasure we experienced.
One woman raised her hand and said, "What if we don't have any?" He told her if that's the case, the exercise is doubly important for her because she will learn to look harder for the simple joys she may be overlooking.
Developing an appreciation of life is important at any age.
The older I get, the more I look for reasons to celebrate. I don't just mean celebrating birthdays or special occasions. I look for ways to create my own special occasions.
This week, we celebrated life with a little friendship breakfast. Five of us put aside our busy lives long enough to celebrate our friendship at an outdoor restaurant. It was so much fun we decided to do it more often.
I also like to celebrate sunsets. That can mean sharing a glass of wine with a friend or partner while the sun goes down. Or, you can celebrate by yourself simply by taking time to appreciate the beauty of the sunset.
The important thing about these celebrations is relishing life.
OK, now it's your turn. Pass along your own wisdom to others.
What has life taught you that you would like to share with others?
I want to hear your thoughts.