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Giving thanks, taking stock

This is the time of year when we like to evaluate our lives and give thanks for all we have. If we’re honest, we take a hard look — we look at our relationships, our work, our homes, our communities. We analyze what we contribute and what more we could do. We also, or at least we should, figure out where we fall short.

That’s not to say that we shouldn’t celebrate the wonderful things going on in our lives. We should. And we should share that joy with those around us. Everyone could use encouragement, and hope. 

But not everyone is in the mindset for a celebration. There are people who really struggle in the world. People need support, though they might not always ask for it. If we can provide that help it goes a long way in making life more bearable — no matter who you are.

There are things to do this holiday season that would make a difference. Volunteer at a food pantry. Help collect and distribute food and other essential items that so many go without. Donate, too, after all, most of us have more than we need. Many live lives of excess in this country, and can afford to share their good fortune with others. There are multiple food drives in the region, collecting turkeys and more for holiday meals. Keep your eyes open for how to contribute, either with donations or manpower. All charities could use the help.

There are other ways to make a difference. Visit with an elderly neighbor or relative. Spend time with those who don’t always have a social connection to the world. Especially around the holidays, loneliness can take a toll. If you don’t know of anyone who feels alone, volunteer at a hospital or nursing home.

Or, if you’re more of a pet lover, volunteer at a local animal shelter. They can always use extra hands, and the animals revel in the attention and love volunteers shower upon them. The volunteers love it, too. Around here there are plenty of places to help out, from the Dutchess County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (DCSPCA) in Hyde Park to the Little Guild animal shelter in West Cornwall, Conn., to Lucky Orphans horse sanctuary in Dover Plains, just to name a few.

The idea here is to think outside of ourselves. In a world where one can’t escape daily horrors: mass shootings, hate crimes, violence and destruction, fires, hurricanes and all kinds of natural disasters, it’s important to be positive and productive. Contribute to society, in any way you can, and try to make a difference.

If people don’t start to look out for each other, if we don’t focus on our similarities instead of our differences, if we turn away from humanity, what’s left? Not a world of which anyone would rightly want to be a part. Give thanks for all you have, however much or little that is. And share your good fortune, in ways you feel are appropriate — it all counts. That’s what this holiday is truly about. 

Happy Thanksgiving.