Thanksgiving can be a lot like Christmas, but it is without the tree and all the presents.

Families gather for a festive, bountiful, traditional meal. It’s almost the same at every home…with turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, yams, green bean dish, cranberry souce, rolls and it wouldn’t be complete without the pumpkin pie.

This joyous occasion is a family reunion where the feelings are generous and all problems are either resolved or at least forgotten for the day.

Just like at Christmas, family members travel from near and far…for those who haven’t shopped early, Thanksgiving reminds us that barely four weeks remain before we gather again for the holidays. It’s often do or die time for many retail stores.

At this time of year we have faith that we’ll have family harmony, thoughts of togetherness and happiness. People who rarely talk to you during the year seem to notice you now and offer a smile and take a second to wish you well.

Our thoughts turn to sharing. We share food and clothing and toys for the kids who are less fortunate. It’s the season to release the images, thoughts and memories that have been trapped in our souls the last 10 months, and experience again the true joys of the season.

The Thanksgiving break reminds us there’s a lot of work to get done. Don’t let the hustle and bustle of the year-end frenzy keep you from taking notice of something special that is happening around you.

There are a thousand things you could do to enrich your life and the lives around you. You could stop on your way home and say hello to an old friend that no longer has a family. You could take a different route home and see the lights, you could stop and get an ice cream cone, you could call someone you haven’t seen or talked to in months.

Maybe you could stop by your child’s (or grandchild’s) school and say thanks to their teacher for the inspiration she is giving your child? It could quite possibly be the most reassuring pep talk that they will receive and treasure this school year.

For as we get older, it is not the things we did that we often regret, but the things we didn’t do. If you wait until tomorrow to do them, it might be too late.

A little over two months ago we remembered the 16th anniversary of 9/11 and a story resurfaced that made me think about the special opportunity we have between Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years.

The story originated from an interview Lisa Beamer gave on Good Morning America a short time after 9/11. If you remember, Lisa is the wife of Todd Beamer who said ‘Let’s Roll!’ and helped take down the hijacked plane over Pennsylvania that was heading for Washington, D.C.

She said it’s the little things that she misses most about Todd, such as hearing the garage door open as he came home, and her children running to meet him. With that example in mind, what sights, sounds and memories will you miss this holiday season?

Beamer told this story: “I had a special teacher in high school many years ago whose husband died unexpectedly of a heart attack. About a week after his death, she shared some of her insights with a classroom of students.

As the late afternoon sunlight came streaming in through the classroom windows and the class was nearly over, she moved a few things aside on the edge of her desk and sat down there. With a gentle look of reflection on her face, she paused and said, ‘Class is over.’

She then said, “I would like to share with all of you a thought that I feel is very important. Each of us is put here on earth to learn, share, love, appreciate and give of ourselves. None of us knows when this fantastic experience will end. It can be taken away at any moment.

“Perhaps this is God’s way of telling us that we must make the most of every single day. Her eyes, beginning to water, she went on. So I would like you to make me a promise. From now on, on your way to school, or on your way home, find something beautiful to notice.

“It doesn’t have to be something you see; it could be a scent, perhaps of freshly baked bread, or it could be the sound of the breeze slightly rustling the leaves in the trees, or the way the morning light catches one autumn leaf.

“Please look for these things, and cherish them. For, although it may sound trite to some, these things are the ‘stuff’ of life. The little things we are put here on earth to enjoy. The things we often take for granted.”

The class was completely quiet. Beamer said the students picked up their books and filed out of the room silently. That afternoon, she noticed more things on her way home from school than she had that whole semester.

“Every once in a while I think of that teacher and remember what an impression she made on all of us, and I try to appreciate all of those things that sometimes we all overlook.”

If you keep this message in mind, I’ll bet you’ll find something beautiful to notice and it will be the best gift you can give yourself.