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Giving back to others is the real spirit of the holiday season

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Since Christmas is almost here, people are shopping to give gifts to family and friends. It is a wonderful feeling to open a colorful wrapped box containing a present, but sometimes the best gifts do not come in boxes. When Hurricane Sandy hit New Jersey, we saw how heroes were born as some rescuers risked their lives to save others. Those brave men and women gave others the gift of life. Here in Newark, New Jersey neighbors helped each other to clean the leaves and fallen tree branches after the storm; they gave others the gift of compassion. Some Newarkers even checked on their neighbors after the storm giving them the gift of caring. The news stories that we heard about the storm taught us how New Jerseyans became more united giving each other the gift of friendship.

There are those who come into this world to improve humanity. Some leaders who have changed the life of others were Dr. Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi, Golda Meir and Nelson Mandela - - just to name a few examples. Mandela died on December 5th during the holiday season, a time to give back to others. He spent 27 years in jail to give the people of his nation the gift of freedom and equality. At his memorial service and funeral, he was remembered not only by South Africans but by the entire world.

Being healthy is the best gift of all. There are those who work tirelessly hoping to find cures for diseases such as AIDS, cancer and other life threatening illnesses. Some day they hope to eradicate these illnesses and give others the gift of health.

Nature gives us gifts the entire year. The azure sky during the sunrise and the dark blue sky during the sunset are gifts of nature. Other gifts of nature are snowflakes, the first spring flower, birds singing and a cool summer breeze. What a breathtaking site it is to see a full moon and a summer sky filled with stars.

The small gifts that we give each other turn out to be big. Cheering someone up with a smile is the gift of encouragement. Opening the door for a shopper at a store or helping someone carry their grocery bags is a gift that brightens a day. Giving an individual another chance after a challenging time is giving them the gift of a new life. Helping someone to achieve is the gift that can make their dreams reality. The list of the small things that we can do to help others is endless. When we give back to others, we give ourselves the greatest gift not only during the holidays but the entire year.

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