It really is beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

The weather has turned colder and the malls are bustling with shoppers eager to get their holiday shopping done in time. It’s the time of year for hot chocolate, peppermint mochas, gingerbread cookies, and snuggling by the fireplace.

But the holidays aren’t just for giving and receiving gifts and enjoying delicious seasonal favorites. This time of year is perfect for expressing gratitude and love for the people we cherish the most. As we prepare to enter another year, the holidays serve as a reminder of all we’ve had and lost this year — all we take for granted and all we’re lucky to call ours.

It’s amazing to hear stories of people “paying it forward” — whether that be by paying for a stranger’s coffee at Starbucks or stopping to help a sidelined driver with a flat tire. Any time is a good time to pay it forward, but the holidays sure do put us in the mood to be a bit more generous. So this year, take advantage of that feeling of generosity to do something nice. And don’t just stop at one thing. If you can do something to brighten someone else’s day, why not do it? After all, everyone is going through something, and a simple gesture can go a long way.

Reminder: If you’ve still got some holiday shopping to do, stop by and visit CLI at Alex & Ani at Montgomery Mall Monday, Dec. 19! We’ll be there from 5 to 7 p.m. and, during that time, 15% of all proceeds the store makes will benefit CLI! It’s a chance to get some last minute shopping done while helping out your favorite local nonprofit. And, if you don’t have any shopping to do, we’d love to see you stop by just to say hi! See you there!