As we kick off the holiday shopping season it never ceases to amaze me the videos that come into our newsroom of those frenzied shoppers making that mad dash for the big holiday deals. We had some great shots of folks who were crushing each other to get into Victoria's Secret stores and of course retail giant Walmart.

Our retail shopping experts tell us the average family will spend $750 dollars for Christmas gifts in this tough economy. Most of these families have saved their money over these past months, skipped vacations and dinners out, so that they could have a memorable Christmas with their loved ones. Moving the kick-off to Thanksgiving Day for some big stores seems to have paid off in a big way as reports of record sales come in. While buying nice presents is important…lets' hope folks remember that the true spirit of the holiday season still remains with the way that we give to those who may need an extra helping hand or in ways that celebrate the love of friends and family.

I was really touched by our stories that showcased the efforts underway to help the small businesses that are still struggling in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Many small stores in Long Island and Rockaway, New York for example are in desperate need of business to stay afloat. It's very heartwarming to see the way people are rallying to help these stores out and get customers to take advantage of sales during this start to the holiday shopping season. Its neighbor helping neighbor. Americans once again doing what they can to take care of each other during difficult times – these are the kinds of stories that make such a difference.

So sad to learn of actor Larry Hagman's passing. He was an amazing television icon who had a larger than life personality. Who can forget the way he embraced the role of the handsome astronaut playing house with his genie in a bottle? Were you one of the millions of fans of the wildly popular show "Dallas" who loved to hate the scheming J.R. Ewing? Hagman's masterful portrayal of the charmingly loathsome Texas oil baron endeared him to fans around the world. The "Who shot J.R.?" episode aired – it was seen in some 57 countries and had viewers on the edge of their seats making "Dallas" one of the most watched entertainment shows of all time. I loved it –and was one of those loyal viewers who couldn't get enough of J.R.'s reckless and corrupt schemes. Hagman was known for his kindness and generosity; the tributes continue to pour in.

My thanks to country legend Ricky Skaggs for taking time out to sing a song from his new album that celebrates the spirit of what a family means to him. With 14 Grammy awards in his remarkable career – he is a true gentleman and we loved having him on the show.