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Fall in Focus

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YOU can't miss what's happening outside: Trees are bursting with colors of fire, gardens are swelling with squash, geese are honking on their way South.

For those of us who stick around, it's a time to gather our harvest and prepare for the coming winter. We take out our heavy coats, put up the storm windows, and store our vegetables. Don't forget that last batch of native corn.

But Northerners also take comfort in knowing that the necessities available now will still be on the market in February. Peaches can always be bought, however dearly. And with modern heating, you can spend a whole winter's day without putting your coat on. If it weren't for the leafy front lawn and the wake-me-up air, fall might pass us by altogether.

All the more reason to step out and sniff: The carelessness with which we are able to pass from season to season needn't hide us from its beauty. Nor should it diminish the more sobering message easily missed. For many in this hemisphere, from homeless Americans to desperate Armenians, fall sends a warning of winter and want ahead. Hot cider and foliage don't mean much when one has little to anticipate.

But this want gives us, as we find such abundance, an opportunity to give to others. The elements are a leveler; so many these days are struggling to find something in common that the season may not be a bad place to start. It could lead us to understand that we actually do have more to share than the weather. In the meantime, we roll along from the autumnal equinox to the winter solstice together.

If we can't gather wood for a fire in Sarajevo or give away coal in Romania, we can still share these things: a cup of hot chocolate with someone who needs it, a sun-splashed walk with a small friend after school, a lawn to rake with a neighbor on the weekend. There's no season like this one, and no better way to appreciate its splendor and ward off its chill than to go outside and lend a hand.

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