ĎTis the season

On Christmas Eve, stores are always filled with last-minute shoppers searching frantically for the last few gifts on their Christmas shopping list. In some cases, itís a last-ditch effort to find that one perfect gift. In others, letís face it, perfect no longer factors into the equation.

Trust me, I know. Because every year, Iím one of them.

Sure, I start out with the best of intentions. This will be the year, I think, where I start early and have everything purchased, wrapped and under the tree at least a week in advance of the big day. But invariably, my plans are foiled and there is at least something which drives me to abandon the relative calm and security of work or home and brave the chaotic desperation inherent with the stores on Christmas Eve.

This year, Iím afraid, is no different. I was so proud of myself a couple of weeks ago. I had more than half of my shopping done by the first weekend of December. I thought that maybe, just maybe, this year would be the one when I could sit back and laugh at all those who waited until the last minute to finish their Christmas shopping.

But no. It just wasnít meant to be.

Here I sit, with a slew of people left to buy for, surrounded by piles of un-mailed Christmas cards - which, for the record, I did actually write out. I just never got to the post office. Now Iím faced with a familiar dilemma. Do I send them now, even though I know thereís no way theyíll make it in time, or do I add them to the bunch I never mailed last December? A little White Out and I could be good to go for next year.

Procrastination has always been a factor in the past. Why do something today, when I could put it off until tomorrow or, even better, next week!

But, surprisingly enough, that wasnít the case this year. Iíve just been too busy with work. In a good way.

Iím talking, of course, about our Delivering Christmas series, volunteering for which took up a number of my afternoons, nights and weekends. For once, Iím not complaining about the extra hours I put in. Because as a result of this series, and the work went into it, this Christmas has been very special for me. Spending all that time helping others and being with people so dedicated to helping those in need has reminded me what the holiday season should be all about.

Itís about giving, not gaily wrapped presents, but of our ourselves.

Iíve always taken great joy in seeing someone unwrap a gift I know theyíll love. This year, I have gotten that same kind of satisfaction from pitching in for some of our local causes. Itís opened my eyes to so much about our county, and I feel that Iím a better person for it. I want to give my heart-felt thanks to each of the organizations who invited me along for their patience and participation. And, of course, for everything they do for our community.

Thanks, too, to all those who helped with our first-ever book drive to benefit Toys for Tots. Between the books we collected here at our offices and those picked up by our hard-working carriers, our count topped well over 100 books, and I know many more were dropped off at other collection points as well. Not to bad for a first effort, Iíd say.

So, yes. I still have shopping to do. And Christmas cards to send. But I donít feel the same pressure Iíve felt in the past. Because I know that Iíve helped in some small way to deliver Christmas not only to my own family and friends, but others across our county as well.

One of the things that has really hit home as a result of this experience is how much we take for granted in our daily lives. Iím not talking about the material things, but the people we care about. Weíre so focused on the commercial side of this holiday, that all too often we forget to cherish what is truly important.

This Christmas, I am blessed to spend the holiday with some of my closest family and friends. My parents will be there, as will my brother Dennis and his family from Tennessee.

By the time this column appears, my sister Trish will be here, too. I canít wait for her to finally arrive. Sheís surprising my parents, and let me tell you, itís been hard to keep the secret.

Weíre all disappointed that my brother Ken and his family wonít be making the trip from New Hampshire, but theyíll be with us in spirit. The same goes for my niece Jessica and nephew John in Florida and all of our extended family and many friends scattered across the globe.

Here is to wishing them, and you, a very wonderful holiday.

Merry Christmas!

Follow me on Twitter ... @evesunmelissa

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