The feeling is almost palpable.

Nearly everywhere you go these days in Greater New Milford, there is an upbeat, happy atmosphere.

Nearly everyone is in a good mood during the holiday season, and there are more smiles, more hellos and more thank yous than at other time of the year.

There are countless parties and open houses, there is way too much food in the workplace, and the shops and stores are filled with customers.

For a lot of folks, this is among the happiest times of the year.

To be sure, not everyone shares in the joy of the holiday season. Indeed, there are far too many people who are alone, or who have recently lost a loved one, or who are down on their luck.

My heart goes out to all of those individuals and families, and I wish them peace at what may be a very difficult time for them.

For those more fortunate, the holidays have a way of lifting people's spirits, of creating a more positive mindset. Pretty much across cultures and religions, there is a heightened spirit of giving and generosity, a greater sense of kindness and compassion.

It would be a far better world if more people could retain that mindset and those sentiments throughout the year.

And it would be a very worthy goal for all of us to try to accomplish that in 2014 and beyond.

Admirably, there are already a lot of people who live their lives that way, and society is all the better for it.

Some folks closely follow the precepts of their religion.

Some people have been brought up to follow the Golden Rule and doing unto others as they wish others would do unto them.

Others believe in the "Pay It Forward" philosophy of passing along kind acts after they have been recipients of good deeds themselves.

The tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown last December spawned a "26 Acts of Kindness" movement, which has attracted many followers and practitioners.

An ever-growing number of individuals have been inspired by the Center for Compassion, Creativity and Innovation at Western Connecticut State University in Danbury, which is a world leader in encouraging greater compassion in society.

Regardless of source or motivation, everyone can do his or her part to make this a kinder, more compassionate world.

One person can bring a ray of sunshine into another person's life simply with a smile or a hello, with a compliment or by holding open the door and letting the other person go first.

One individual can make life a little better for others through random acts of kindness, like helping an elderly neighbor with yard work or shoveling, or buying a bag of groceries or two for a needy family, or anonymously picking up a restaurant check for someone struggling financially.

One person can help out by donating non-perishable goods at a local food bank, by making a contribution to a charitable cause, or by volunteering his or her services with a charitable organization.

One citizen can try to make life better for others by becoming politically active -- speaking up at meetings, writing letters to the editor, lobbying elected officials, running for office.

Sadly, in this land of plenty, there are millions of fellow Americans out there who are hungry and living in poverty. And there are millions of other folks who are simply down on their luck in other ways.

Each and every one of us can make a difference -- in small ways or big ones.

As the holiday season passes into the New Year, let's all make a commitment to maintain the spirit of the season and help make it a better world for those around us.

Art Cummings is editor emeritus of The Greater New Milford Spectrum. He can be contacted at 203-731-3351 or at