By Lisa Whaley

Blessings have been on my mind a lot of late, especially with Thanksgiving right around the corner. I look at my husband, my children and my home and am so thankful for the time I have with them, as well as the simple shelter that has become our gathering place for family dinners and holiday traditions.

With my mother gone now for more than a year, I have also finally started moving past the sadness of her loss and enjoying the many memories we shared. She left me quite a legacy, and I am so very grateful for that.

Perhaps she is the reason that, in the midst of my blessings, I have been looking outward a bit more this season.

My mother was always reaching out, taking in and adopting those she saw in need. This year, I really want to honor that, and I am encouraging our readers to try to do the same.

We can make such a difference, and even be rewarded in the process.

Both Time and Psychology Today, just to name two examples, have spotlighted studies indicating that the giving away of wealth, not the wealth itself, is directly tied to happiness.

In one such study, researchers from the University of Zurich in Switzerland told 50 people they would receive about $100. Half of the people were asked to commit to spending that money on themselves, and half were asked to spend it on someone they knew.

Researchers discovered that just thinking about giving the gifts was enough to make the participants happier than those planning to spend on themselves.

Other studies have shown that older people who are generous tend to have improved health. And still others indicate that people who volunteer tend to be healthier psychologically as well as physically.

But in the end, this isn’t about making us feel better, but about blessing those around us. So many men, women and children face lonely, difficult days during the holiday season. After all, grief doesn’t cease simply because there is a turkey on the table. Worry doesn’t disappear under the twinkling lights of a Christmas tree. And loneliness doesn’t always fade with the singing of a cheery holiday song.

Yet in each of these situations, and many, many more, those lights, songs and even slices of turkey can ease the burden – when that burden is shared.

You don’t have to go far. And you don’t have to spend much, if anything. Look around at your own family first. But I guarantee you have a mother or mother-in-law, grandmother or grandfather, aunt, uncle or even cousin who would be delighted with just a bit of your time.

Look around your office or your church and invite someone to join your family for Thanksgiving dinner. Take someone to lunch. Drop a basket off for a neighbor.

Step outside your comfort zone and volunteer at a homeless shelter or local soup kitchen.

Or volunteer to help provide transportation for seniors.

Take a portion of this year’s financial blessings and donate them to a worthwhile cause or even to an individual or family in need.

The list goes on and on. There are so many opportunities to make a difference. And we are blessed with the ability to give.

It doesn’t have to cost much in time or money.