I guess most of us are in the same boat: we may not all be the most generous of folks, but we do what we can. Families come first, of course, because we certainly want to take care of them. But our hearts go out to others whenever we see a need, and we see at lot of need and our hearts go out to them a great deal during the Christmas holidays.

You see evidence of that response every day. The Toys for Kids program, the Salvation Army red kettle drive and the Brown County United Way campaign are all experiencing good support. A host of other charitable organizations are also finding the help they need, boosted somewhat by the approach of the end of the year when those who plan to take income tax deductions must finalize their gifts.

Whether you get a tax deduction or not, though, giving is its own reward. I once heard a successful professional fund-raiser urge people not to give until it hurts, but ďto give until it feels good.Ē Indeed, this is the season of giving.

But after you do all this, you need to be good to yourself as well. Iíve decided thatís what Iím going to do. Iím shopping for a Christmas present for myself.

I have a lot of options here. I could go belatedly middle-aged crazy and buy a Corvette, get a face-lift, remake my wardrobe and dye my hair. But to be honest, Iím not sure how easy it would be these days for me to get in and out of a low-riding sports car, and Iím not sure my reflexes are sharp enough any more to handle all that horsepower. Iím not trying to impress anyone with my appearance (thatís probably obvious) so why go through the discomfort of a face-lift? And as long as the clothes I have now fit ó and thatís a big ďifĒ ó I see no need to replace them.

Now about the dye jobÖ thatís sounding better all the time.

I was watching a special about Paul McCartney on PBS the other day, and I thought, ďHereís a guy who looks really good for his age.Ē But in the close-ups, you could see the years etched around his eyes, and the passage of time on his arms and hands. But his hair was as good, although not quite as long, as it ever was. Iím not trying to insinuate that Sir Paul benefits from a hairdresserís skills, because I donít know. He could have benefited from good geneticsÖ like Ronald Reagan did. At least we were told Ronald Reagan did. But it doesnít matter. Itís the end result that counts.

When a manís hair is totally gray, people think that makes him look distinguished. However, when a manís hair color is in transition, the resulting salt-and-pepper effect can make him lookÖ just older. Unfortunately, a clumsy attempt at coloring it in one direction or the other makes a man look simply pathetic, like when a hairpiece doesnít match.

You get subtle reminders about where you are in the process. Hypothetically speaking, letís say you go to a fast-food restaurant, place your order and pay your money. The cashier ó who is maybe 18 ó hands you a receipt.

ďOh,Ē you say, ďyou didnít charge me for my drink.Ē

ďDrinks are free for senior citizens,Ē the kid says with a smile.

Youíre beyond the point where vanity prompts you to protest this courtesy, as you did five years ago. You just pocket the dollar-and-a-half savings and spare the youngster any embarrassment. But you know from prior visits here that youíre actually about eight years away from officially qualifying for a senior citizenís discount at this particular establishment.

However, it may not be just the gray hair. Iím probably sending off other clues ó psychologically, as well as physically ó about my readiness to embrace senior citizen status. I donít carry an iPod. My hand is not attached to a cell phone so I can send endless text messages. I donít even carry my cell phone with me like itís my passport ó and if I did, my cell is so obsolete it would peg me as as truly being an oldtimer. I might as well wear a T-shirt that says, ďI like Windows 98.Ē

The Corvette and cosmetic make-overs may be too extreme. Iíll have to think about those a while longer. But the new cell phone and computer are definite candidates for my wish-list as the night of Santaís visit approaches.

Well, I could go on and on about it, but I need to cut things short. Itís time for lunch, and a Boy Scout is here to help me cross the street so I can get to my car.

Gene Deason is managing editor of the Brownwood Bulletin. His column appears on Friday. He may be reached by e-mail at gene.deason@brownwoodbulletin.com.