Because of our production deadlines, we’re working on our end-of-year issue before we’ve even begun to defrost our Thanksgiving turkeys. But that doesn’t dampen our spirits any. Even now, lights are going up, Christmas tunes are playing, and stores are chock-full of holiday spirit. So it’s easy to get in the mood.

I also have the added ben-efit of a Christmas vacation to look forward to. In fact, as you read this, I’ll be cruising in the Caribbean. But even better than spending seven days sunning, diving, relaxing, exploring, and eating to my heart’s content, is that I’ll be doing it with my family, which these days is a remarkable thing.

Each year, friends think I’m kidding when I tell them I’m taking a Christmas vacation with my family (Mom, Dad, sibs, and spouses), and actually looking forward to it. But it’s no joke. Four years ago, Mom decided that rather than spending our time searching for gifts that no one really needed, we’d spend the money on a trip together. And while it’s been an undisputed success for us, woe to the cities we descend upon. While some would say there’s no such thing as too much fun and jollity, I’d guess that we come pretty close to crossing that line.

And for that, I’m thankful. The intact, close-knit, enjoy-each-other’s-company family is an endangered species of sorts, and I realize how fortunate I am to have a strong, close, and loving one. And while it’s certainly not a model that will work for everyone, I hope that all families, no matter what shape and size they come in, can take a little time to enjoy each other’s company as 2003 comes to a close.

Another powerful theme this time of year is the desire to help people. But knowing what you can do, how you can help, and where to start can be somewhat overwhelming. Luckily, it doesn’t have to be that way. Take a look at our story "The Power of One" and you’ll find four people who each took one idea and turned it into something big. Hopefully they’ll provide just the inspiration you need.

I also want to point out another story in this issue. A month ago I wrote about diets and fast food, and apparently I came down a little hard on Long John Silvers and Subway. Of course, being the cynical bunch that we are, none of my coworkers or bosses (yes, plural) pointed it out, but lots of friends and readers did. So in the spirit of equal time, read our excellent interview with Subway’s cofounder and president, Fred DeLuca. I’d love to say that this was planned, but it was, in fact, simply a happy coincidence — a coincidence, however, that I’m happy to cash in on. ’Tis the season, after all, to give and get as much as you can.

But enough with such cynicism. I hope that each of you has a safe holiday filled with much laughter and love. See you next year!