Thumbs up to all of Santa’s helpers. We’re talking about all of the volunteers who give generously of their time and/or treasure to bring a little Christmas to those who aren’t as fortunate. These are the people who practice what others preach: It’s better to give than receive. The Christmas spirit brings out the best in some people. That might mean writing a big check to the Salvation Army’s Empty Stocking Fund. That might be a little gesture, like pausing in heavy traffic to let a car pull out of a parking lot. We just wish the spirit started sooner and lasted longer. Wouldn’t it be great if we saw it throughout the year? Actually, we do. We just don’t look hard enough. Charities would struggle if some people weren’t charitable all year. These are the special people who don’t wait until December to quietly spread the cheer. These are role models who make the world a better place.

Thumbs up to a great high school football season. Congratulations to the teams from the Pee Dee that went the farthest in the state playoffs: Hartsville, Dillon, Lamar and Lake View. Only Lake View won a championship, and it came at Lamar’s expense. Dillon fell short of winning a fifth consecutive championship. Just getting to the championship game for five consecutive years is quite an achievement.

Thumbs up to basketball. Because the season starts before football season ends, some of us don’t pay much attention to it until now. South Florence High School just played host to the Little Caesars Invitational, a three-day girls’ tournament. Darlington defeated South Florence on Wednesday in the championship game. The four-day Pepsi Carolina Classic starts Tuesday at West Florence High School. The 12-team boys’ tournament will feature 20 games, ending with the championship game at 7:30 p.m. Friday. Check it out. This is quality competition. Proceeds go toward a good cause: the Boys’ & Girls Clubs of the Pee Dee Area.

Thumbs up to 2016. We’re not sure if it was a great year, but it will be memorable. Hurricane Matthew and the 2016 elections won’t be forgotten. Starting Sunday, the Morning News will look back with a nine-part series. Part I is on education. You also can see some of our top images of the year. Look for a photo gallery at scnow.com. In subsequent days, we will reflect on the year in business, entertainment, crime, sports and politics. We will remind you of some of the notable people who died in the past year, and on Jan. 1, we will look ahead to 2017. Let’s hope it will be a better year.

Thumbs up to Darlene and Ross Shotts for hosting the completely unbelievable Lights 4 Paws display. That message comes from reader Debi Osterberg of Darlington. “This truly phenomenal Christmas light display was open to the community from Thanksgiving to Christmas,” Osterberg wrote. “The Shotts give a tremendous amount of time and money to this event and open it to the public for donations, which went to the Florence Humane Society and the Snip spay and neuter clinic. This event not only provided a great venue to raise money for our local animals but provided a great service to the community. All the generous donations were greatly appreciated but no one was turned away for lack of funds. Anyone who could not donate was still welcome to see the excitement on their children's faces at the sight of the display and hear their squeals of glee when meeting Santa. There were also a large group of volunteers that worked to make the event a success. Thank you to the Shotts, the volunteers and all the generous donors.”

Thumbs up to a good and helpful neighbor, wrote reader Thelma Hawkins. “Mr. Rogers … came into the Exxon Station at Claussen Road and Pamplico Highway Wednesday,” Hawkins wrote. “It was after 9:30 at night, and I realized I had a flat tire. I managed to get to the station. I went inside to call AAA. They said it could be 45 minutes to an hour. That's when my good Samaritan came into the station to ask who had the flat tire outside. I said that would be me. He then changed the tire very capably, and his sister offered to follow me home. I was home safely by 10:45. Thank you, Mr. Rogers and family, and Merry Christmas. It surely was a gift to me.”

Thumbs up, thumbs down is a regular feature of the Morning News and appears each Saturday on our Opinion page. We seek nominations for both good and bad deeds from our readers. Send nominations to us by email at letters@florencenews.com. Be sure use the word “thumb” in the subject and include a contact number. Thumbs can also be mailed to us c/o The Morning News, 310 S. Dargan St., Florence, S.C., 29506.

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