One of my all-time favorite movies is Love Actually. Through interwoven vignettes – quirky and charming in that telltale Brit fashion – director Richard Curtis beautifully illustrates the movie’s central theme – love actually is all around.

For me, it’s especially apparent this time of year.

In my little house divided, reigning in the smack talk while watching the Iron Bowl together is nothing if not an act of amore.

Then there’s the matter of standing in the kitchen, elbow deep into the cavity of a glacially cold bird, searching for giblets. Love? Well I’m sure not shoving my arm up the nether regions of a turkey for kicks.

By the time leftovers are gone and Christmas decoration boxes are out, mutual affection is the only logical explanation for how we can trick out our house, while two toddlers “help,” without going all Boris Karloff on the neighborhood.

All jest aside, a remarkable time of year – one of reflection, gratitude and camaraderie – is upon us. And as blessing-aware as I consider myself to be, assembling this issue has broadened my mindset.

Before I listened to U.S. Army Sergeant John Lewis describe in painstaking detail the unimaginable realities of fighting in Vietnam, I never realized how hollow the one-liner thank you I say to my father-in-law each Veteran’s Day must sound.

When Johnny Grimes told me how in one week strangers from all over the country helped his family raise the $18,000 they needed for adoption costs, it did much to bolster my confidence in the innate goodness of us all.

I hope these features, along with coverage of the many other events, activities and celebrations happening this month all over Hoover, help you broaden your mindset too.

Early in the month, pay tribute to local military service men and women through a week’s worth of “Thank-A-Vet” activities hosted by the Library.

If you have a heart for service, make plans to learn more and attend the Hoover Service Club’s Nov. 9 luncheon at Hoover Country Club. What better time to ingratiate yourself to the needs of others?

On. Nov. 18, join residents from all over the City of Birmingham for the 65th Annual Alabama Civic Chorale’s performance of Handel’s “Messiah,” hosted by Riverchase United Methodist Church. While this is a long-standing tradition for many, it will be the Walden family’s first. I hope you’ll join us.

Later that night, congregants from five area churches will gather for a community-wide Thanksgiving service and fellowship. What a great way to focus on the heart of what this month is all about.

During this season of thanks, I wish moments for you that are both meaningful and that stretch your comfort zone. It’s the same challenge I’ve set for myself. As I’m out and about, reuniting with old friends and meeting new ones, surrounded by people who deserve to be celebrated and those who wish to celebrate, it will serve as a reminder to me that Richard Curtis really did get it right: “If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaky feeling you’ll find that love actually is all around.”

Originally published in Nov. 2012 Hoover Sun.