'Tis the season to be thankful for many things

By: Lynda Hollenbeck

"They" say — whoever the proverbial "they" might be — that timing is everything.
I won't argue with the thought, particularly in regard to the timing of this column. As I write it, Thanksgiving hasn't happened yet, but by the time it's published, Thanksgiving 2013 will be history.
So what do I focus on as I face the challenge of being betwixt and between what really is my favorite holiday of all? I guess I'll just go for a hodgepodge of "stuff."
First, to belabor the point I just alluded to, Thanksgiving really is at the top of my holiday calendar list.
To me, it's a much better than Christmas because it's about family and friends and food and fellowship and all good things in between. There's no pressure to find the perfect gift for everyone one knows. The focus is on enjoyment.
Still, if we get to the real reason for the season, obviously Christmas should come first. That's a no-brainer. Still, the extraneous influences and human-made pressures have made the yuletide season hectic and difficult and expensive and exhausting.
But Thanksgiving? It has retained all of the goodness the holiday was intended to encompass. And I look forward to it every year.
Someone recently mentioned that I should write about "random acts of kindness" since this is the season when we try to be thankful for what we have and focus our attention on the needs of others, many of whom are less fortunate.
I liked that idea and would recommend the plan for anyone. You may think you know someone well, but most of the time we aren't aware of the burdens others are carrying. Sometimes the nicest thing you can do for someone is give the person a hug or some other expression of affection.
The woman who suggested the idea had been the recipient of an unexpected act of kindness. She had planned to purchase an item that didn't fit into her budget on that day and asked the store clerk to save it until her next payday.
When she got ready to pay for her purchases that particular day, the clerk handed her the item she had desired and told her it was hers to enjoy; the employees had taken care of it as their gift to her.
What a lift this gave her. It was a little thing, but as the old song says, little things mean a lot.
Sometimes all we need do is open our eyes and take a look at what's going on around us. We can do some little something that will open up a whole new world of happiness for someone else.
We don't have to become professional do-gooders to make our mark in the world. Notoriety isn't what it's all about. Just think about the possibilities.
A phone call to a lonely person can be a huge morale-booster.
A card or note is even better. That way it can be enjoyed and treasured over and over, sometimes years later, if it's saved and the person runs across it again — often by chance.
Unfortunately, note-writing has become nearly a lost art in itself. I still have lovely notes I received in earlier years from some of Benton's finest women. Among these were Wells Alsobrook and Anne Jones. When I had written a story they especially appreciated, they took the time to put their thoughts in writing and let me know. These are personal treasures.
I'm thankful for people like this that it was my privilege to know.
My spouse was a wonderful note-writer. Unlike me — who intends to do it but rarely does it happen — Ed would jot off a few well-chosen words to congratulate someone on an accomplishment, to offer comfort in a hurting situation, or scribble some words simply to nurture a friendship.
As I look forward today (on Wednesday) to a family Thanksgiving, I do so with a heart full of love for those closest to me and gratitude for those who meant so much but have passed on.
Many people are grieving now, and when grief is raw, there is little that can be done to ease the hurt. But time and faith can bring much healing. I know this from experience.
I pray that they — as I did and continue to do — can reach the point that rather than feel bitterness at their loss, they can become grateful for what they had.
It is, after all, the season to be thankful.

Lynda Hollenbeck is senior editor of The Saline Courier.