By Mike Newhouse
The holidays have a way of getting us all to take stock; not only in the past year, but for times to come.
It seems to me that overall the last year has been pretty good to Venice. First of all people are more involved in our community that ever. We all know folks we agree with, and those with whom we don’t, but at the end of the day, that’s not really what’s important. What’s important is a dialogue, and that no doubt is happening more than ever.
Volunteerism seems to be up as well. Every time the Venice Neighborhood Council puts on an event, we seem to have an abundance of neighbors who want to participate, and be part of planning a productive event. I know this has been the same for many other organizations in Venice as well.
It also feels like the economy is finally starting to turn around. Many businesses are hiring, people are starting to travel again, and overall, most people I hear from tell me that they feel hopeful about the future.
These are all good signs, but by no means is this progress and optimism reaching everyone. Too many members of the Venice Family still seem to be struggling to tread water or to get ahead. Too many still feel that government or the community are not listening to them and that they are feeling less and less a part of their neighborhood and larger community. I hope in this holiday season, and beyond, we can all focus on trying to bring everyone into the fold.
Some of these issues are no doubt socio economic based, or stem from issues that go back many generations, and cannot be easily repaired. But, what can help is even more dialogue and even more volunteerism.
The easiest example of our needs are our homeless population and those living in poverty. With the holidays coming, now is the best time of the year to focus on how each of us can make someone else’s life better. Whether it’s bringing someone a hot meal, donating food or money to a local charity such as the LA Food Bank, The Westside Food Bank, the LA Regional Food Bank, or volunteering to work at St Joseph’s, OPCC, SPY, PATH, The Teen Project, Meals on Wheels or any church in town that helps the needy, particularly during this time of year, even the smallest gesture can make a big difference.
In particular, the holidays can also be a tough time for kids in need. Many of us took for granted getting toys for the holidays, but it obviously isn’t always the case. The Venice Neighborhood Council, and in particular Mariana Aguilara and the Oakwood Recreation Center have run a wonderful Holiday Toy Drive for the past several years. I really hope, that it you are able, you can donate a new, unwrapped toy, to this wonderful annual event.
Finally, the holidays are often very difficult for those struggling with mental illness and or drug and alcohol dependence. Sadly, suicide related to these issues is often highest around the holidays. As someone who has had to personally witness the devastating effects of these struggles, especially during the holidays, I hope there are those among us that can find some time to volunteer to help our neighbors in need, whether it’s just being a supportive shoulder, or offering time to the many suicide prevention centers in Los Angeles.
In short, let’s all try to focus on what the holidays mean; not gifts in the traditional sense, but gifts in the larger sense. Let’s listen to each other, volunteer for each other, and make this a special time of the year for everyone, not just those who can afford it.
Happy Holidays my friends.