I have a friend from my high school days, who has consistently volunteered her time to work with various charities, for more than a decade.

One of her current projects benefit people newly released from jail. She cleans, mends and irons donated clothing for these folks. The other day, she sent me an e-mail to share her surprise at the quality of the donated clothes she's been receiving as of late. Everything is in good condition and is not hopelessly out of style. That's a progress report on the rest of us.

We're no longer tossing expired creamed corn and threadbare jeans into the donation bin. By increasing the value of our donations, we're honoring the dignity of the person in need.

My old friend may be tiny in stature, but she's energetic, tenacious and has handled every curve ball life has thrown at her. She's had more than her fair share of suffering, but has never backed down from a challenge.

I tend to think that her Scottish heritage is partly responsible for the woman she is and always has been. Her name is Heather and she is not unlike the tough, pink flowering evergreen that thrives in the Scottish Highlands. My friend credits her strength and ability to her faith in God above all else.

Her faith is solid, unwavering and shared with others. It is obvious to me, that Heather's selfless contributions doing the Lord's work brings her much joy and fulfillment.

At this time of year, we are all called to help out the less fortunate among us. Meanwhile our attention, our energy and our dollars are being pulled in several directions.

It seems that stress and depression are as much a part of the season as are wrapping gifts and writing greeting cards; and with good reason. We place more expectations on ourselves during the holidays.

As I engage in a fraction of the volunteer work that my friend undertakes, I realize that I benefit personally in ways that I couldn't have possibly imagined. Being in the service of others has an amazing ability to lift me out of my perceived problems and melancholic mood. Having a bad day? Lend a helping hand and watch your perspective on life improve.

Volunteerism is the gift that keeps on giving. On the receiving end of a donation, is a human life. Imagine for a moment, that your contribution restored dignity or hope in the heart of this person.

it's a powerful thought that empowers volunteers all over this nation. Donating our time or resources is the perfect gift because as one gives, they also receive