The author, center, with his children, Camden, left, and Logan, at home on the May River.

There is something about the holidays that brings out the reflective side of me. On one hand I relish the fact that I will get to spend time with my family, which until now were strewn across the nation; and then on the other hand I feel an inexplicable tinge of sadness.

What is there to be sad about you ask? I guess it is for the many who have little or nothing at all.

I have never been a wealthy man by any means, but I am wealthy in a whole different way. I had great parents who instilled in me the will to help those in need, which I try to do each and every day. It could be an act as simple as helping an elderly woman carry her groceries to her car or buying a cup of coffee for someone who doesn’t have enough change to buy it themselves. It’s all about awareness of your surroundings in the here and now.

Besides my parents, nature also taught me a great deal about being aware of the moment. Whether I am out fishing or simply taking a walk, I find myself scanning my surroundings all the time.

Many of the most memorable things I have witnessed in nature happened in the blink of an eye. Two bald eagles wrapped in a ball falling from the sky, a blue marlin appearing out of nowhere to take a bait, a lightning bolt striking from the ground up – each of these events witnessed only because I was practiced in the art of seeing. There stands my wealth.

So that you know, my sad thoughts were brought on by events during the past few weeks – in particular, the tornado outbreak that decimated towns across six states.

I am sure all of those that were in the path of these nightmarish storms were so looking forward to the first normal Christmas after the past year and half of Covid. Then, in the blink of an eye, all their Christmas wishes are gone, literally wiped off the face of the earth.

This horrific event has me thanking my lucky stars for each and every day I have on this earth, where each moment is precious and every second a gift.

Before I sat down to write this column, I talked to my wife, Karen, telling her I was not sure this would be the right subject matter for an outdoor writer. She said, “If it is what your heart tells you to write, then do it.” She also brought up how so many people wish for what others have.

A perfect example happened to her recently when a woman drove down our street. Dressed to the nines, adorned with priceless jewels, and driving a very expensive car, it was easy to think, “I wish I had what she has.” In reality, that woman told Karen that she had just lost her husband of more than 40 years. Be careful what you wish for.

There is wealth to be had every second of every day. But the wealth I am talking about is right in front of you if you choose to see it. Maybe you are not a fisherman or an avid outdoorsman, but nature’s beauty is still there should you choose to look around. Nature has continuous shows playing 24-7 but if that isn’t your cup of tea, then random acts of kindness are there for the giving every moment of every day.

Though I have never had huge sums of money to fall back on, I do know this. The feeling you get from helping others is the greatest feeling there is. Given the choice between having all the wealth I could possibly want, or truly making a positive difference in someone else’s life, I would take the latter every time.

So, with that off my chest, here are my Christmas plans. Every other year my entire family descends on Bluffton, and this is the year for the get-together. My son, Logan, is flying in from Los Angeles, while my daughter, Camden, her husband, Andrew, and my two grandchildren, Benjamin and Alice, have to travel – at most – 30 yards. Talk about a Christmas presence! I am over the moon. 

Marsh monkeys at heart, Logan and I plan on spending every free moment either fishing or clamming – and knowing Camden and her kids, they will be right in there, too.

Finally, I want to thank all of you who have called or emailed me over the past year encouraging me with your kind words about something I wrote that touched you in some way. You have no idea how these random acts of kindness have made me feel.

Have a great holiday and remember that wealth is there for the taking if you simply choose to see it.

Collins Doughtie, a 60-year resident of the Lowcountry, is a sportsman, graphic artist, and lover of nature.