Holidays important to help those in need

Published 10:56 am Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The holiday season is always a special time of year, an opportunity to celebrate with family and friends, reflect on the memories of the past year and look forward, in anticipation, at what’s to come. It is also an important time to remember those who are less fortunate.

Sadly, there are many Ohio families, who are not only struggling to buy gifts for their children this Christmas, but also food, clothes, and other necessities. A slowdown in our economy has forced many businesses across the state to make cuts or close down, causing folks to lose their jobs and, in some cases, their homes. We also have people in hospitals and nursing homes, who don’t have anyone to visit them.

In the spirit of the holiday season, we should all try to do our part to help folks in need, either by volunteering or donating money to a good cause. Every contribution—no matter how big or how small—can make a difference.

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The General Assembly also plays an important role in bettering the lives of Ohioans. My colleagues and I pass laws to make our communities safer, work to break down barriers to business development that will bring jobs to our local communities and help constituents navigate state government services.

In this mold, the Legislature recently passed House Bill 280, legislation which works to protect and empower women and children, who are victims of crime. The bill institutes mandatory jail time for assault against a pregnant woman, while establishing tough penalties for the crime of human trafficking under Ohio law.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, between 800,000 and 900,000 people are trafficked across international boarders every year, including thousands of American women and children—some as young as 10 years old. These victims are often kidnapped, raped and forced into lives of prostitution and servitude. Ohio is not immune to the impact of this horrific crime. In January 2006, news reports in the Toledo Blade exposed that city as a hub for teen prostitution.

While many of us will never be on the front lines of the human trafficking problem, we need not look beyond our communities to make a difference in people’s lives. A small act of compassion—volunteering at a soup kitchen, visiting senior citizens at a nursing home or sending a donation to a local charity—can make the Christmas star shine in someone’s life. These are things government cannot do.

We learn and grow by giving and receiving. For those who are struggling this holiday season, I understand that it can be difficult to ask a neighbor, friend or family member for help, let alone accept a gift from a total stranger. But, if you are offered assistance, accept it, knowing that someday you will be in a position to help someone in need. Remember that Jesus was born in a manger and was wrapped in swaddling clothes that were given to him, but ended up giving the greatest gift of all.

I wish everyone in the 17th District and across the state a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.