Christmas decorations have been up in some stores since before Halloween. Is it just me, or do they start earlier and earlier every year?

In any case, before we jump too quickly into the gift-giving holidays, let’s pause for a moment and be thankful for those gifts we already have.

In addition to family, friends and health, this year in the Lowcountry, we as a community are thankful for survival after Hurricane Matthew – ever grateful for first responders, good leadership, helpful neighbors and dependable chainsaws.

While I am indeed thankful for all those people and things, I have also recognized recently how grateful I am for light.

Yes, I said light. Yes, it sounds sort of weird. But follow along for a moment.

Light comes along, both literally and figuratively, to dispel darkness. Light allows us to see things we can’t see in the dark, those things that make us uncomfortable, scared, worried.

Light is necessary for the growth of plants, and of humans and other animals. We get our healthy doses of vitamin D from sunlight.

I wonder if the change in light is why we feel discombobulated for days after Daylight Saving Time changes back and forth. One day it’s light outside at 6 p.m. and the next day, it’s dark at 6 p.m. It takes us a while to adjust.

I think others might have noticed how important light is, especially at this time of year, with shorter days and fewer hours of sunshine.

In putting together this issue of our newspaper, I kept noticing the word “light” in our articles and event news. The Old Town Bluffton Merchants Society will host its annual Light Up the Night Dec. 2. On the same day is the annual lighting of the Town Christmas Tree at 5 p.m.

The Dove Street Festival of Lights on Hilton Head Island kicks off Nov. 19 and runs through the end of the year.

Our real estate writer, Larry Stoller, suggests sellers keep the lights on in a home for sale, because “light and bright homes are more appealing.”

One of our faith writers, Pete Berntson, describes the blue sky after the hurricane, and how God brought us light after the darkness of that storm.

The “light” of compassion from others can help us in dark times, such as when we face illness or grief, depression or anxiety. Hurricane Matthew came though in the darkness and left destruction in his path. In the morning light, we saw the damage, but we also saw the light of a new day.

When we face uncertainty or struggle to make sense of things, we usually come to recognize it won’t stay that way forever, and we say “There’s light at the end of the tunnel.”

For those of the Christian faith, hope lies in Jesus, the Light of the World. Jews celebrate Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights. And in Buddhism, light represents wisdom, and wisdom dispels the darkness of ignorance. Some people – whether religious or not – offer “love and light” rather than prayers.

In so many ways, it’s the light that encourages us, helps us grow, and gives us hope that things will get better. And that’s something for which to be thankful.