The month of February is a matter of the Heart. I’m not referring to Valentine’s Day, for the moment, which symbolizes a worthy sentiment to those we care about, but rather a matter of the heart. Literally. Do you have a healthy heart, and are you following habits that promote it?
There is always something special when you have a celebratory month — Black History Month, as an example — and it has a direct connection to where you live, what you do, or someone that you knew. And to me, that special connection is Burlington County, which some have referred to as the cradle of emancipation. It earned this reputation, in part, because it offers more historical connections to Black History Month than any other New Jersey county, with 16 sites in nine municipalities, many that focus on the Underground Railroad that had such prominence in Burlington County before the Civil War.
I’d like to offer two local examples that are fascinating because of the contributions they made to African American history.
The signs of the homeless have become so common and prevalent that I worry we don’t see them. Whether it’s a disheveled person standing on the street corner with a sign or someone wearing tattered clothing pushing a shopping cart uphill with belongings they deem important, we no longer see the human tragedy. Sometimes, we just avert our gaze. Other times, they look like us, yet they are homeless.
The fragility of youth. It might seem a sappy approach to use, but I bring it up for an obvious yet often forgotten reason. Virtually everyone has a sense of fragility or insecurity when they are young and embarking on uncharted waters. We are all familiar with the anxiousness we felt, whether it’s entering a new school setting, competing in a sporting event or trying to find acceptance in a new social circle. Whether you’re that tough guy athlete or that seemingly sensitive music major, there’s always that lurking sense of insecurity and a need for guidance.
On Monday, we celebrate Martin Luther King Day, a special occasion to honor one of America’s greatest civil rights activists and a champion for people of every social strata. While the civil rights movement burned bright with numerous lights, Martin Luther King was a comet across the sky advocating for change, equality, and fairness.
Let’s talk about a subject that leaves some people uncomfortable: Poverty.
The poverty line is the estimate of the minimum level of income needed for basic life necessities. According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s report, 40.6 million people in the country lived under the poverty line in 2016, a third of them children.
Every New Year’s resolution centers on some action or activity that we link to self-improvement. I have a twist to the usual self-improvement resolution. Ever consider a New Year’s commitment that focuses on working toward self-improvement for others? Specifically, I’m suggesting that donating blood through various organizations, most notably the Red Cross, is a particularly strong New Year’s resolution.
It’s the Holiday Season and amidst all of the preparations and celebrations, it is the perfect time to seek a few moments of much needed reflection, and hopefully achieve a greater sense of intimacy with family and friends.
I say Holiday Season because during December, religions that are not Christian have their own calendar for a time and approach to a special celebration that is meaningful to their faithful and yet might not coincide with ours.
While most of us will anticipate the fun of the holiday season, a dark cloud becomes prevalent around the same time: flu season. It begins in October and lingers into early spring, with January and February being the peak time.
Occasionally, I worry that some people confuse the flu with the common cold. Please don’t say, “it’s only the flu, he or she will be OK.” It’s not all right, particularly because it is so preventable.
On Dec. 8, some of my neighbors and, yes, even those of you who do not live in the areas I represent will have an opportunity to help spread some holiday cheer. All of us, from time to time, could use a reminder of how fortunate we are and the blessings we’ve received. These fortunate circumstances, I hope, will at least prompt some to offer a helping hand to those who are less fortunate.