Once upon a time ...
That is how the stories began when we were children. Those words held an anticipatory feeling for their audience - wondering what was going to develop, or unfold.
That is how we feel at the beginning of a new year - all the possibilities that lie ahead, potential opportunities and unknown adventures and experiences we may have in that year. Amazing to think we are already at the end of November 2009.
As 2009 winds down, and we approach the triumvirate of the holiday season, we have so much to be grateful for.
Thanksgiving seems to be the holiday that is just for the sake of celebrating the joys and love and relationships we have in our lives, of being together, reconnecting with friends and family - the sacredness of the value these relationships have in each of our lives. Those are what matter in life.
Each year brings gains and losses - births, deaths, love gained and love lost. For people who have lost loved ones, this can be a wrenching time of year. It is up to the rest of us to help them, help them see that there still is joy in their lives, joy in their families and joy in what we have in the here and now. Nothing ever, ever, stays the same - it's constant evolution, and we have to adapt continually to our ever-changing world.
But - the holidays do give us license to pause - to stop the world for a little while, and just enjoy the here and now, without having to be thinking of planning for the next step and the next month and the next year.
Fort Dodge will have many occasions in the next few weeks, for all of us to stop a bit and enjoy the moment.
The Chamber of Commerce's Christmas Tree Lighting will take place from 5:15 to 6:30 p.m. Nov. 30 on the City Square. We will have choirs from both St. Edmond and Fort Dodge Senior High, The Harmony Brigades, cookies and hot chocolate, crafts and Santa.
We will also be collecting canned goods and packaged food items for The Lord's Cupboard so that we can make sure all in our community can celebrate this time of year. There is a reverent feeling of being outside on a dark night, with beautiful music and twinkly lights, surrounded by people with kindness and love and giving in their hearts.
The following Saturday - Dec. 5 - the Study Club's 75th anniversary will be celebrated by a Patron Party at the Smeltzer House, which is beautifully decorated for the holidays, followed by a concert by local band Saucy Jack at the Laramar. All proceeds will benefit the Webster County Health Department's Women and Children's programs. Again, events that we can all enjoy, and help some very worthy causes at the same time. Saucy Jack is the band that opened for the Shellabration Chicago concert last year - they are a great band - we hope you all join this fun event.
The Farm News Ag Show will be held at Iowa Central on Dec. 2 and 3. We are very fortunate to live in this region with the most fertile land in the world, and some of the hardest-working people in the world as well. Please take time to visit this show and see some of the amazing technological advances that are being made in our agricultural industries.
The economy has caused all of us to take a good look at how we live our lives, spend our money and prioritize our wants and needs. As we do our holiday shopping, for gifts and food, I encourage you to patronize the merchants in our local region. There are so many good reasons to do this. They are the ones who have made investment of their own capital in our community, the sales tax generated by their revenues stay right here (so we all benefit), you won't have to use lots of gas money to travel and shop out of town, and finally, by shopping locally, you will save all that travel time and have more time to spend with your family and friends - just being together. Taking a ''time out'' from the rush at the end of the year.
And so the year draws to a close - and as in the stories we listened to when we were little, and the characters in the story lived happily ever after, I wish for all of us to have peace and contentment and the genuine happiness those bring us. I wish everyone a wonderful Thanksgiving. We have blessings all around us for which to be thankful.
Amy Bruno is executive director of the Fort Dodge Area Chamber of Commerce.