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  • Writer's pictureArwen Rasmussen

Happiness: It’s What You Choose

By Carl A. Trapani, MA, MS, LPC, Chippewa Manor Campus Chaplain

Years ago, a man of 92 years, decided the time had come for him to move into assisted living. His wife of over 60 years had recently died, and he had no children or relatives to help look after him. He realized he no longer had the strength necessary to run a home, so he sold his house and auctioned off his belongings.

He packed his suitcase and then took one last walk around the house he and his wife had shared for over fifty years. Each room produced a flood of memories that sometimes brought a tear, but mostly smiles to his face. He then waited by the front door for a taxi to come and take him to the retirement center. When he got there, a receptionist welcomed him, but then apologized saying she was sorry, but his apartment wasn’t quite ready.

The retirement center was busy, and somehow in the busyness of work details, this old gentleman was forgotten by the staff. After nearly three hours, the receptionist remembered him and came to where he was waiting with some more apologies for the long wait. She said, “I’m so sorry you had to wait so long, but now your apartment is ready.” He had no harsh words or complaints for her, just a gentle smile and a soft-spoken, “That’s all right. No harm done. I was fine.”

Walking slowly, using his cane, the receptionist guided him down the hallway to the elevator. She then began to describe his living space to him. “Now I’m sure, you may be surprised, but we had to change your apartment from the one you selected to a much smaller one. We had someone else who registered a day before you did, and they chose the larger unit.” He responded, “Oh that’s fine. I’m sure what you have for me is going to be perfect.”

She paused, and then continued, “This new apartment you’re getting is quite a bit smaller than the other one, and it might seem tiny compared to your old home.” But he responded with “Not at all. Not a problem, I like it very much.” The receptionist continued, “I’m also sorry to tell you that the apartment you originally had chosen was freshly painted and redecorated. It was located right in the middle of the building overlooking a park. It had several windows, but the one you are getting hasn’t been re-decorated in a long time. The furniture is old and mis-matched, but if you stay for a year, we promise to update it. Oh, and it is located at the end of the building overlooking the alley, and it only has one small window.”

The man smiled, then responded, “That won’t be a problem. I’m sure the furniture and walls won’t be a problem. I’m happy with them just as they are, and one window is great. It’s terrific. I like it already. It’s fine!”

The receptionist paused, with her jaw agape, “Wait a minute. You haven’t even seen it, and yet you are saying you like it. What’s going on?

The old gentleman smiled at her again and replied, “Seeing it has nothing to do with me being happy with it. Happiness is something I choose in advance. Whether or not I like a room doesn’t depend on the furniture, or the décor. It depends on how I decide to see it. I already decided in my mind that I would like my new place. It was a decision I made before I came here.”

“Knowing that my life was about to change dramatically today, I have decided to enjoy everything about the change and to think about it in positive terms. Every morning when I wake up, I tell myself, to enjoy everything the day brings. Every day I tell myself how much I am going to enjoy whatever comes. Sunshine or rain, heat wave or blizzard, I choose to like and enjoy them all. This comes from me recognizing the greatest gift of all, the power to choose how I will feel. I realize this is a gift from God. It is awesome. I can choose. I know I can spend my day in bed brooding and worrying about all the bad things in life. I can worry and fret about all the pain and difficulties I have with the parts of my body that no longer work very well, or I can get up and give thanks to heaven for those parts that are still in working order. Every day is a gift, and as long as I can open my eyes, I choose to focus on the new day, and all the happy memories that I have built up during my life and how I am going to add to them today.”

What if all of us had the same attitude as this old gentleman; choosing to be happy, regardless of how circumstances change around us? We can, if we remember that life is like a bank account. We withdraw in later life what we chose to deposit along the way. If we focus on negative things and deposit complaints, sadness and fear; that is what we will have to withdraw in our older years. But if we focus on positive things and deposit happiness, joy, peace and contentment; that is what we will be able to withdraw and use during our senior years.

Choose wisely!

Carl Trapani, MA, MS, LPC serves as campus Chaplain at Chippewa Manor. He has more than 50 years of pastoral service and professional counseling experience. For more information please call (715) 723-4437 or email him at

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