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Everywhere I go I see caring people
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You expect me to say "there are signs of Christmas," and certainly that is true. Retail establishments didn't wait until Black Friday to begin offering Christmas specials, and I hope we all remembered to "shop local businesses" on Small Business Saturday.

Individuals are putting away fall and Thanksgiving decorations and clothes and pulling out Christmas stuff.

Naturally, churches are busy with special programs and projects. And we haven't recuperated from Thanksgiving food before Christmas luncheons, dinners and parties have begun.

This year there's something else special I'm noticing everywhere: People truly do extra things to help the handicapped.

Now that I need a cane to help maintain balance as I walk, not only my friends seem quick to open doors and carry packages, perfect strangers make a special effort to be helpful. I really don't want to feel handicapped, but I'll admit that I am grateful for the help, especially because it seems so freely given.

To the young man who, through a restaurant window, saw me approaching and got up from his seat to come open a heavy door, to a school secretary who guided me down a long hall, to a girl in a parking lot who hurried over to help put packages in my car, as well as to many friends and neighbors who volunteer so readily to assist in numerous ways: You are a blessing!

When I first moved to Dawson County, it was easy to see people you know everywhere you go. There were so many families who had lived here for generations, and one kept meeting more of their relatives.

Now we "outsiders" outnumber the natives and there are more unfamiliar faces surrounding us. But I am often pleasantly surprised when young people tell me that their parent or cousin or grandparent knows me.

Of course, many of my present acquaintances think that I've been here forever - and, actually, this has been my home for a long time. (For that, I'm also thankful!)

There are plenty of others who were once "outsiders" and are now important parts of the fabric of Dawson County. Two of those familiar faces are turning over their positions to someone else: Jerry Tragessor and Mary Wheeler are retiring as managers of RIC Rack, and Ken Newell has already given up his job as chairman of that board to Warren King. But they and many others have guided that resource as it grew and multiplied, and it continues to be a true "helping hand."

Jean Greenway maintained from the beginning that RIC Rack should include a food pantry, and now that is one of its most needed resources.

Welcome to Angie, the new manager. By the way, they still need more volunteers to help run that institution.

Not only RIC Rack and KARE for Kids, but many organizations are active in spreading the true Christmas Spirit of helping and giving to fill both local needs and those in other places, from Samaritan Purse shoeboxes, Salvation Army, veterans' organizations, etc., to the Heifer Project's goats and chickens.

Everywhere I look, especially in my mail box, there are requests for donations. Most of us are straining to stretch our charity giving even as we cut back on our gifts for family and friends.

So from now to year's end, I hope to see many smiling faces everywhere I go.

Helen Taylor's column appears periodically in the Dawson Community News.