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Editors Notebook Holiday Season: Opportunity Knocks
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Elections are over, the political ads are gone from television, radio and the print media, and now people can turn their attention to everyday life and getting back into the routine.

Well, not entirely true, as the holidays are now upon us and the Black Friday sales are poised to start in some locations on Thursday, with retailers hoping to get a jump on the busiest shopping day of the year. And whether or not you agree with the practice of moving Black Friday up to Thanksgiving afternoon/evening, it’s going to happen and some people will even forego spending the day with family to make sure they have a good spot in line for that ‘must have’ gift item for someone on their list. (And probably, in some cases, for themselves.)

Locally, our communities are preparing for various festivals and gatherings, from this weekend’s 20th annual rendition of Oakdale’s Cowboy Christmas (Nov. 23 and 24 at the Gene Bianchi Community Center), the Riverbank Christmas Festival on Saturday, Nov. 24 and Escalon’s Christmas on Main coming up on Saturday, Dec. 1. A number of tree lightings and other holiday-themed gatherings are also scheduled around the region.

Along with all the festivities, however, comes that chance to take a few moments and reflect. Thanksgiving is Thursday and that’s always a good time to take stock and give thanks for the blessings in your life, whether it’s having a job to help pay the bills in this continued tough economy to having the chance to share the holiday with seldom seen family or friends.

It’s also the start of the season for giving and hopefully there’s some of that you can do, too. Schools in the area have already helped out with canned food drives and making up Thanksgiving baskets for the less fortunate in our communities. Coats for Kids, Toys for Tots, Adopt a Grandparent, Trees for Troops … there are a number of ways to help make a difference this holiday season. Find the one that speaks to your heart and do what you can.

Slowly, the unemployment statistics are improving for the Central Valley but we are still coming in among the highest in the state, if not the nation, in numbers of jobless residents. This time of year is particularly tough for families who often don’t have enough to make it through the month without running out of food and/or money, let alone finding some extra cash for a gift or two to put under the tree. You can help out by joining one of the local gift-giving efforts and if your budget allows, there are also efforts such as the Operation Christmas Child that shares the wealth across the country and to needy children overseas.

Or maybe it’s as simple as baking a tray of cookies for that elderly neighbor and spending a few minutes visiting with someone who doesn’t have family nearby. Perhaps a stop at the local nursing home with a holiday card or just a smile for a resident; it could make a big difference in their day.

Regardless of how you plan to celebrate on Thursday, I offer my wishes for a happy Thanksgiving and a blessed, healthy holiday season to come.