We Need Jobs!

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to take its toll with drastic job losses, safety, and high prices on working-class people.

Black America’s inequalities make it even far more oppressive. We are the last hired in good times and first fired during bad times. COVID-19 disproportionately strikes us in morbidity and catching the disease much more than the percentage of whites.

President Trump continues to defend his bungled handling of COVID-19 and mounting job losses. Do you believe that President Donald Trump still says that Blacks are better off than they have ever been because of his policies?

One question is whether it is COVID-19 safe to go to work or do you stay home with your child because it still remains unsafe to attend school? In our economic system, working people remain left to deal with concerns of a disruptive, dog-eat- dog, competitive economy on their own. Even with woefully inadequate government funding, problems of Black inequality, restoration, and renovation fall way short under both Republicans and Democrats.

Remember former President Obama, a Black man— chose “corporations to large to fail,” over saving people from losing their homes in 2009. Low-income people with Blacks near or at the bottom were affected the most.

He proudly said, “I’m not the president of Black America. I’m the president of all Americans.” Maybe he forgot where he was. Currently, both Democrats and Republicans continue to fight back and forth in Congress over another “help the people package” for the people. There we go gaming again.

Even with the current drama, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics continues to undercount unemployment percentages. Previous administrations did the same thing. The Bureau continues to use the U-3 statistic to unemployment. It does not underestimate rates under the more accurate U-6 figure, which corresponds to a more on-target percentage.

Unions, labor, and the “Black Lives Matter” movement, and the Black community need to make demands and fight back far beyond just voting Trump out. We need income. We need to fight for a federal government public works program putting millions to work at union-scale wages building needed hospitals, schools, housing, mass transportation, and many more infrastructure projects. We need to fight to stop layoffs; to cut the workweek with no cut in pay; to create a cost-of-living clause benefit that includes retirement benefits; and to fight for unemployment benefits for as long as workers need it.

Given the devastating fires in the west, a government-funded public works program could put tens of thousands of people to work at union-scale wages to stem forest fires. Workers could clear brush; replace old electrical lines; train personnel to sniff out potential hazards; and make sure that any new fires could be isolated and brought under control.

Dr. Ken Morgan is scholar-activist and former educator at Coppin State University. He can be reached at: kmorgan2409@comcast.net.

Can’t stay home, can’t keep curfew: People experiencing homelessness caught in pandemic, curfews and violence

People experiencing homelessness in the United States— already at heightened risk and with fewer resources due to the pandemic— now face even greater challenges as a result of the both the violence sweeping many city streets and the curfews many are imposing in an effort to control. While people take to the streets across the country to protest police brutality and the killings of unarmed Black Americans, we urge lawmakers, police units, and neighbors to do more to provide people experiencing homelessness with shelter and safety.

Without homes to shelter in place, and with limited access to already-burdened emergency shelter, people experiencing homelessness are left to fend for themselves. The Centers on Disease Control (CDC) has issued guidance urging cities to house unsheltered people whenever possible, avoid sweeping encampments, and reconfigure shelters to conform to social distancing and sanitation guidelines. Unfortunately, compliance across the nation has been spotty at best, and people experiencing homeless have remained at extraordinary risk.

Now, various cities have implemented curfews as an effort to curb violence conducted outside of protests against police brutality. Unfortunately, curfews have created further challenges, as unsheltered people, already subject to laws criminalizing acts such as sleeping in public, are at risk of arrest for yet another “crime”—violating an order to stay inside after curfew when they have nowhere inside to go.

People experiencing homelessness are disproportionately people of color in the United States— 40 percent are black, despite only being 12 percent of the national population—and thus are already at greater risk of being targeted by police.

Increased police presence on the streets means increased risk of arrest and attacks during perceived curfew violations as well as preexisting laws that criminalize sleeping or that criminalize basic life sustaining activities.

“We call on cities across the country to follow the CDC guidance by housing people experiencing homelessness immediately—and to protect them from arrest, violence, and further trauma,” said Maria Foscarinis, founder and executive director of the Law Center.

In addition to putting our unhoused neighbors at greater risk, the curfew further

restricts access to basic services such as food, sanitation and bathrooms. The lack of services will further jeopardize the health and safety of homeless people, who are

already suffer from more chronic diseases due to stress and trauma, and who, if

infected, are twice as likely to die of COVID-19 than housed people.  

The National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty (the Law Center) is the only national organization dedicated solely to using the power of the law to prevent, and end homelessness. With the support of a large network of pro bono lawyers, we address the immediate and long-term needs of people who are homeless or at risk through outreach and training, advocacy, impact litigation, and public education.

As COVID-19 Phase 3 vaccine studies begin, minority participation in clinical trials is crucial

The minority community’s relationship with the medical and scientific world has not been built upon trust. This is particularly true with African Americans. Brutal and unethical historical practices in medicine subjected African American bodies to dissection and autopsy material without their consent. In addition, sterilizing Native American women without their consent, and the infamous Tuskegee syphilis experiment, led to a justifiable fear and luck of trust by people of color regarding clinical trial participation in the United States.

Recent publications have also indicated African Americans are overly represented in experimental and procedural studies that did not require informed consent. These are studies conducted under emergency situations when subjects cannot make an informed decision. Part of the explanation given was that African Americans represent the largest proportion of geographical catchment in areas where such experiments are done. These are primarily in inner city metro areas where academic medical centers are located. On the contrary, African Americans constituted less than five percent of patients in cancer-related clinical trials, which led to 24 of the cancer drugs approved between 2015 and 2018. The underrepresentation of African American in oncological clinical trials extends to cancers that have higher rates of occurrence in the African American community. If we follow the same logic for studies that did not require consent, studies on medical conditions that affect African Americans at a disproportionately higher rate (like multiple myeloma) should have a proportionate or higher ratio of African American subjects in the clinical trial.

The system is not serving justice and must change. Clinical trials can provide earlier access to care options that can prolong life and prevent disease.

Opinions differ in terms of the benefit of vaccines to society. I strongly believe in the positive impact of vaccines. The world eradicated small pox and controlled polio, measles, yellow fever,

pertussis, etc., with vaccine intervention. We must remember how human health was affected in the pre-vaccine era, when millions died with each major


I grew up in a developing nation where infectious disease accounts for the

majority of preventable deaths. I witnessed first-hand the impact of mass vaccination. I cannot imagine what the population demography would have looked like if public health were not armed with mass vaccination strategies for major childhood illnesses. As we progress in the fight against COVID-19, a safe and effective vaccine would give us the means to resume normal life.

Vaccine trials will show the result of preventing disease, or modifying the course of a disease, in a population that has the highest burden of disease. People at the highest risk of the disease— like healthcare workers, frontline workers, and African American and Hispanic communities— must be included in the study design that identifies requirements for participating in the trial. But protocols will not increase participation in

the study unless the trust and fear barriers for clinical trial participation are


When it comes to COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials, early educational intervention to the underrepresented African American and Hispanic communities can improve the knowledge gap. Logistical factors that will curtail access to clinical research sites have to be considered. For example, trial managers should think about creating access to transportation, or taking clinical trial sites to where the target cohorts reside.

While building trust takes a long time, involvement of nonmedical community leaders to champion care in their respective communities will have a positive

influence. Primary care physicians who have longstanding relationships with communities should be involved in

recruitment and the explanation of

research protocols, as they have built rapport with their communities.

Having quantitatively and qualitatively proportionate racial, cultural, and ethnic representation on the team of clinical investigators— and among the teams who monitor the observance of rules of clinical investigation— can couple with a compassionate support staff during clinical trials to improve the trust factor. While medicine is a universal human science that assumes each of us should have commitment and care based on our common humanity, historical reasons in America have made race a major factor in care delivery. As such, we must bridge the gap so the community that needs care the most can benefit from early clinical trials and scientific progress to change the course of COVID-19 pandemic.

Asefa Mekonnen, MD, FCCP, is a pulmonologist in active practice as a partner at Rockville Internal Medicine Group in Rockville, Maryland. He also serves as an investigator with Meridian Clinical Research to oversee clinical


Protecting our community during National Foster Care Month

— In the late 1980s and early 1990s, our community was under a full-fledged attack. Crack was in our streets, it was in our schools, it was in our parks, it was in our playgrounds, and for some it was in our homes. The epidemic wasn’t just affecting one part of the community; this impacted the entire community, leaving sons without fathers, daughters without mothers, and parents, ultimately, alone.

But the carnage didn’t stop there. Policies enacted during the crack epidemic exacerbated the destruction. Children in South Los Angeles were ripped away from their parents and shipped off into the child welfare system, some to never see their parents, or their families, again. It was at the height of the crack epidemic when the number of kids in foster care exploded and the percentage of black youth in the system skyrocketed.

Now, the country, not just our community, faces a new epidemic. Our child welfare system is already becoming increasingly populated due to the consequences of the opioid epidemic. The current crisis is starting to devastate families and our already over-worked and under-resourced child welfare system. This time, we must apply the lessons learned from the crack epidemic: if you want successful policy, you must include the affected communities in the formulation of new policy.

We cannot afford to turn our backs on those impacted again. At the end of this month, the Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth will host its 7th annual Foster Youth Shadow Day, a program that brings foster youth from all over the country to meet and shadow the very Members of Congress who represent them in Washington, D.C.

No one knows more about the pitfalls of our nation’s child welfare system than those who grew up in it. These young people are travelling thousands of miles to come to D.C. to share their stories—both their challenges with abuse, trafficking, overmedication, or homelessness—as well as their successes with mentorship, adoption, family reunification, community activism and independent living.

The result of these visits is a better understanding of how to improve the child welfare system and fight against this epidemic. The FY 2018 omnibus bill that was passed earlier this year had the single biggest increase in investment in child welfare funding history along with a large investment in funds to combat the opioid crisis. Despite this progress, there will always be more work to be done and this month, I look forward to continuing this fight. National Foster Care Month is a month to honor the successes and challenges of the more than 400,000 foster youth across the country and to acknowledge the tireless efforts of those who work to improve outcomes for children in the child welfare system.

Making sure that all children have a permanent and loving home is not a Democrat or Republican issue— it should be an American priority. Our society is judged on how we treat the most vulnerable amongst us. We must invest in life improving foster care services, praise foster families, caregivers, and relatives for their selflessness to others, and continue to provide a hand up so that foster youth can realize their full potential.

Congresswoman Karen Bass represents California’s 37th Congressional District. She is the 2nd Vice Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus and the co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth. Follow her on Twitter at: @RepKarenBass.

The Future of Transportation Isn’t Just Self-Driving Cars. It’s Public Transit.

Fiat Chrysler and BMW just announced plans to jointly develop self-driving cars. The move puts the automakers in competition with Google, Apple, and other car manufacturers that are also working on driverless vehicles. The question is when, not if, this is going to be commonplace.

Self-driving cars might seem to render public transportation obsolete. But the opposite is true. Autonomous buses have already made their way onto streets. And because Bus Rapid Transit tends to have dedicated lanes, the transition to driverless vehicles should be easier for public transit than for private transport.

The truth is that public buses, subways, trolleys, and trains will complement driverless automobiles by serving as our transportation network’s high-capacity trunk lines. Automated chauffeurs may pick us up for the first mile of our journey, or drop us off after the last mile. But public transit will serve as the backbone of that multi-modal transportation system.

Over the past two decades, public transportation ridership has grown by 34 percent. Last year, Americans took 10.4 billion trips on public transit, or 35 million every weekday.

Those who use public transit don’t miss driving. Typically citing convenience and cost, six in 10 riders prefer public transit to other modes of transport.

Americans are giving up their car keys because buses and trains fit seamlessly with the ride-sharing, car-sharing, and bike-sharing services that have revolutionized how we get around.

Consider a survey taken last year of commuters in Austin, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, D.C. Researchers surveyed 4,500 people about their use of public transit, car-shares, bike-shares, and rideshares. They then identified a subset that regularly uses several of these modes of transportation. Nearly six in ten of these “super-sharers” reported that more often than not, they travel on a bus or a train.

These variations of ways to get around— public transit among them— are allowing more households to go car-free, or at least car-lite.

Rideshare services and public transit are also complementary because people prioritize them at different times. In that seven-city survey of commuters, researchers found that Uber and Lyft are the most popular way to get around between 10 p.m. and 4 a.m., when buses and subways are typically closed.

Rideshare services and public transit in some cities are even working in tandem.

In Dallas, Atlanta, Los Angeles and Minneapolis, Uber has partnered with local officials to integrate ridesharing with real-time bus tracking in one smartphone app. In the future, such partnerships could yield seamless transfers, unified payment methods, dynamic route maps, and even lower transportation costs.

People now expect to get where they need to go on-demand. Public transportation services can meet that need by offering convenient, reliable, and ubiquitous service, both individually and in partnership with others.

It’s important that they do, because a future with less driving creates healthier, wealthier, more sustainable communities. Taking public transit is 10 times safer than traveling by car. Those who rely on shared transportation are generally more physically active than their car-only counterparts. For most Americans, a car is the second-largest purchase they’ll make; skipping ownership bypasses that expense. Plus, increased reliance on public transit reduces U.S. carbon emissions.

Technology may soon take our places behind the wheel and increase our reliance on public transportation in the process.

Richard A. White is a senior advisor with the American Public Transportation

Former NFL player raises money for Baltimore City students

— Thousands of people stepped up to help former NFL linebacker Aaron Maybin raise money for students in Baltimore’s public schools after his tweets showing students wearing jackets and winter hats inside a classroom went viral. He has continued to raise awareness about the issue by promoting a clothing drive and other initiatives to support the students.

A senior at Coppin State University named Samierra Jones set up a “GoFundMe” account to support Maybin’s effort.

The GoFundMe page says that, “Baltimore City Public Schools are currently operating with an inadequate heating system. Students are still required to attend classes that are freezing and expected wear their coats to assist in keeping them warm. How can you teach a child in these conditions? This fundraiser will help in purchasing space heaters and outerwear to assist in keeping these students warm.”

Jones, who also graduated from the Baltimore city public school system, according to the GoFundMe page, says that the fundraiser would help to purchase, space heaters and outerwear to help the students stay warm; the page also noted that supporters could donate hats, gloves, coats and socks for the students. In less than a week, nearly 2,100 people contributed $76,199.

On January 6, 2018, Maybin tweeted, “It’s been amazing to see the outpouring of support from the community. Thank you to everyone that has helped to push this issue and donated resources. Please keep them coming! #MyBmore”

Most of Baltimore’s public schools reopened on Monday, January 8, after public outrage forced a citywide shutdown last week, according to USA Today.

“Four schools failed to make the grade Monday, and students were sent home from another school after a pipe burst,” USA Today reported. “Baltimore serves more than 80,000 students at 177 schools and programs.”

Last week, Maybin tweeted: “It’s really ridiculous the kind of environment we place our children into and expect them to get an education. I got two classes in one room, kids are freezing, Lights are off. No computers. We’re doing our best but our kids don’t deserve this.”

Maybin continued: “All the money in the world for building jails. But not enough for basic public school necessities.”

Maybin teaches at Matthew A. Henson Elementary in Baltimore. He played football professionally for the Buffalo Bills and the New York Jets. Like Maybin, many who followed the story on social media acknowledged the irony of the amount of tax money that is spent on jails and prisons as compared to what is spent on the public school system.

“Baltimore’s K-12 public school students and teachers are on the front lines watching this city talk about juvenile crime while the State of Maryland, Baltimore’s mayor, and @BaltCitySchools can’t even keep classrooms properly heated during freezing weather,” tweeted Lawrence Brown on Twitter. “As studies have determined, however, Maryland severely UNDERFUNDS our schools, creating deep issues.”

According to the Baltimore Sun, “Baltimore schools have had to return millions in state funding for building repairs after projects to fix failing heating systems and roofs grew too expensive or took too long.”

The Sun report continued: “Since 2009, city schools have lost out on roughly $66 million in state funding for much-needed repairs after approved projects ran afoul of state regulations meant to prevent waste, state records show. The money could have funded dozens of new heating systems at schools where the heat is now failing.”

Lauren Victoria Burke is an independent journalist, political analyst and a frequent contributor to the NNPA Newswire. She can be reached at LBurke007@gmail.com.

Relocating U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem a Bad Move

— I wasn’t really surprised by Trump’s willingness to threaten the world for daring to stand up to his aggressive move of the United States embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem; hearing U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley suggest that the U.S. was taking names, made this entire scenario something close to comical. If Palestinian lives were not at stake it would, indeed, be the making of a comedy.

What is noteworthy is that the Trump Administration is not even going through the pretense of attempting to lead the world. Instead, their approach has been one of crass bullying. Do what the U.S. wants, or else. While most of the world has been used to one or another version of this, e.g., gunboat diplomacy in the global South, what is different here is that this foreign policy-by-intimidation is targeted at the traditionally close allies of the United States.

Most of the world immediately recognized that Trump’s commitment to shift the embassy to Jerusalem was a cynical move to appease his base. What seemed to have astounded international observers is that Trump and his advisors seemed to have little to no sense of the global ramifications of this move. Interestingly, Trump and his team sincerely seemed to be believe that their theoretical peace proposal for the Israelis and Palestinians could still go forward. Fat chance.

Instead of attempting to build global coalitions among partners, Trump is following the tried and true antics of the schoolyard bully: Make life difficult for those around them and intimidate those who you wish to be on your side. This does not amount to the makings of a stable and healthy alliance. At best, it is a situation of the sheep and the shepherd.

Many in the foreign policy realm of the U.S. establishment are feeling the emergence of a leadership void among the so-called developed countries. Trump may

believe that he is leading, but bullying others and attempting to reverse every Obama initiative does not make for leadership. Instead it looks, to much of the planet, like acting out. Other global powers including Germany, Russia, France and China are stepping forward, competing to build their respective alliances, sometimes overlapping one another. And while this happens Trump, seems more comfortable sitting back and relaxing, or perhaps savoring in a moment in which he seems to be more concerned with enriching the super-rich rather than even going through the motions of advancing a productive foreign policy agenda.

This upcoming year will certainly be a year of struggle, both domestically and internationally, against this insanity.

Bill Fletcher, Jr. is a talk show host, writer and activist. Follow him on Twitter @BillFletcherJr, Facebook and at www.billfletcherjr.com.

Black women and girls deserve more respect, visibility in the #MeToo Movement

This has been a monumental year for the reaffirmation of women’s rights in the workplace and the ballot booth. This is long overdue. The battle for the rights of women, and specifically black women and girls, has gone on for centuries. In America, the spotlight on this fight for women’s rights shines brightly on White women, while Black women, who have often fought more vigorously for equality and justice, are largely consigned to the shadows of the movement.

TIME magazine placed “The Silence Breakers” on their cover, noting that the tenacity and courage of the women’s voices could be heard over the walls of systemic oppression.

Still, in the stories of Dajerria Becton, a teenager who was violently handcuffed and thrown to the ground by an overzealous McKinney, Texas police officer and Sandra Bland, who was arrested and died in police custody in Prairie View, Texas, that oppression seems unsurmountable.

Most acts of extrajudicial violence and aggression towards black women never become national headlines and many black women suffer in quiet silence as their complaints of sexual harassment are ignored and discounted, regardless of their socioeconomic status.

Mainstream America labels black women as angry Jezebels unfit for normal, social interactions. Black American pop culture hypersexualizes our young girls while condemning them for being too fast. There is a deafening silence in the black community that is complicit in the degradation of our black women.

When we do speak, instead of a healing, sometimes our words just cause more wounds.

One of the most influential hip-hop artists of all time, Tupac Shakur spoke directly to black women in “Wonda Why They Call U Bytch”:

You leave your kids with your mama

‘cuz your headin’ for the club

In a skin-tight miniskirt lookin’ for

some love

Got them legs wide open while you’re sittin’ at the bar

Talkin’ to some nga ’bout his car

I guess he said he had a Lexus, what’s next?

You headin’ to his car for some sex

Today, some people would criticize Shakur for slut-shaming, while others would applaud him for telling it like it is.

White women have been applauded for coming forward to tell their stories of sexual assault and harassment under the #MeToo flag. The movement would be much stronger and more credible, if its leaders forced mainstream media to also carry the stories of black women on their morning shows and popular websites.

Black men must bear some of the blame for mainstream media’s ignorance and apathy towards the plight of black women. We band together, as brothers, ignoring the anguished cries of our sisters. We must stop, look and listen.

We must reject R. Kelly for his alleged abuse of black women and girls with the same unanimity that black voters in Alabama rejected the alleged sexual predator Roy Moore.

We must step in the name of love and in the name of justice with respect for our black mothers, wives, sisters and daughters. This respect must begin in the black community; we must clean our own house, first. We must elevate our women from social media hashtags to highly-valued and respected members of the global community.

In “Keep Ya Head Up,” Shakur offers

a critique on the exploitation of women in the black community:

And since we all came from a woman

Got our name from a woman and our game from a woman

I wonder why we take from our women

Why we rape our women, do we hate

our women?

I think it’s time to kill for our women

Time to heal our women, be real to our women

And if we don’t we’ll have a race of


That will hate the ladies that make the babies

And since a man can’t make one

He has no right to tell a woman when and where to create one

So will the real men get up

I know you’re fed up ladies, but keep your head up.

Black women and girls are sick and tired of being sick and tired; it’s time for us to heed Shakur’s advice and heal our women and be real to our women.

This is Ed Gray, and this is straight talk. Ed Gray, the host of The Commish Radio Show airing Saturdays 1-3 p.m. on FBRN.net, can be reached at eegray62@att.net.

The food industry needs to stop hiding nutrition information

Nearly four in ten American adults are obese. That’s an all-time high.

The Food and Drug Administration proposed two rules to help combat this epidemic. The first would require chain restaurants to include calorie counts on their menus. The second would update the Nutrition Facts Label— the black-and-white nutritional content box.

Some food manufacturers and restaurant groups are working to defeat these rules. Deploying their lobbyists, these firms have pressured regulators to delay implementation of the regulations.

Americans can’t afford these delays. The obesity epidemic is taking a toll on our waistlines— and our wallets. Obesity puts people at risk for many diseases, including diabetes, cancer, stroke, and heart disease. Those four illnesses kill nearly 1.6 million Americans every year, and cost almost $700 billion.

Many believe the solution is to eat healthier. And yes, choosing less-processed foods and ones prepared at home is one step. But that isn’t as simple as it sounds.

People can’t make healthier choices if they don’t know the content of their food. In one survey of 3,400 fast food customers, on average, respondents underestimated the number of calories in their meals by about 200. More than one in four underestimated by more than 500 calories. That’s 25 percent of an average person’s daily recommended calories.

Even when foods have a nutrition facts label, Americans have trouble interpreting the information. Half of Americans can’t make out a food’s sugar content. Many struggle to calculate nutrition information when a package is divided into servings.

When consumers are provided with nutrition information, they make healthier choices. Restaurant-goers who were given the calorie content of their meals plus information about recommended daily intakes consumed 250 fewer calories than those given no information, according to a Yale study.

Transparency doesn’t just empower consumers to make healthier decisions. It prompts the food industry to eliminate unhealthy ingredients. In 2006, the FDA required manufacturers to label foods that contained trans fats. In response, food companies cut the levels of trans fats in their products by 80 percent.

The food industry has been fighting to block calorie counts on menus for years. The FDA first proposed the menu rule in 2010. The agency originally set the compliance date for the end of 2015. The National Grocers Association, the Food Marketing Institute, and the American Pizza Community claimed the rule would be too costly. They pressured the FDA to delay it three times.

In November, the FDA issued new guidelines for the rule, so it appears it will take effect in May 2018. But the agency is accepting comments about these guidelines, which may allow the food industry to push for watered-down regulations or another delay. That would be a mistake. Since officials started crafting the rule, the obesity rate has shot up 12 percent.

The FDA’s second proposed rule would require manufacturers to print nutrition labels with realistic serving sizes and easy-to-read calorie counts. Previously, serving sizes didn’t reflect how much the average American actually eats. The FDA also added a line for “added sugar.” It’s recommended that people shouldn’t consume more than 50 grams of added sugar a day, but many popular products exceed that.

Regulators wanted the rule to take effect in 2018. But big trade associations have pressured the FDA to delay implementation. The obesity epidemic will worsen if regulators cave to the food industry. It’s time for restaurants and manufacturers to tell Americans what’s in their food.

Mindy Haar, Ph.D., a registered dietitian, is assistant dean, Undergraduate Affairs, for New York Institute of Technology School of Health Professions.

How to have a Merry Christmas!

Christmas is the most depressing time of the year for many people. New Year’s Eve is another difficult time. There are lots of reasons why depression and suicide rates soar during these holidays. Feeling alone, financial distress, health issues, family problems and the list can actually be long.

Here are some quick tips for you. Keep this column handy for reference over the next two weeks:

Plan to be connected to people during these holidays. Even if it’s sitting on the sofa making telephone calls all day, at least you are talking and hearing people. Actually this is a good idea anyway. Make a long list and call people and wish them a Merry Christmas or a Happy New Year.

Divide your list and call some one holiday and the rest on New Year’s Eve. Too many people sit back with the attitude, “Well, they haven’t called me.” Don’t worry about that because we are talking about your self-preservation here. Have people in your home whether it’s family or people in your neighborhood. Have them for just coffee and a cookie. Better yet, if you have family, relax and just roll with the holiday punches. There is absolutely nothing else to do on Christmas. Your local convenience store or truck stop might be open but that’s it. Enjoy and love the people you might be around— it’s only once a year that you are truly stuck all day with them. You can survive it.

Do not fuss about anything. Be nice to everybody. Let the stupid things that people say to you roll off your back. Smile and act like you are having a wonderful time even if some relative is driving you crazy. Just laugh and have fun.

Keep it simple. Don’t over spend and don’t rack up a big credit card debt. Let other people help you with any cooking, kitchen details and clean up. Share the joy with other people. Most people are happy to chip in and it makes them and you feel better.

Allow yourself plenty of time. My wife starts cooking Christmas dinner two weeks early. She makes something and puts it in the freezer. If she makes one thing every day we normally end up with enough food for the neighborhood. There was a time when she tried to do it all on one day. This drove her and all of us crazy. Last minute cooking, shopping and leaving home late to travel a long trip is all nerve racking and takes some of the fun out of the holiday.

Help one or two people along the way. No one person can save the world but you never know when your assistance might be a miracle for some one. Years ago, a man had tied up all of his money into a house when suddenly he lost his job and had no way to keep the house. The bank secured everything he owned and there were zero dollars available to do anything. He didn’t know what he was going to do including buy groceries or even find another place to rent.

A financially secure man in the town heard about the plight of the other guy and called him into his office one week before Christmas to announce to him he was going to buy his house from him. The man was overwhelmed with joy and was able to eventually secure another place to live, another job and move forward with his life. However for sometime he lived each day feeling and knowing that his life and family were in severe peril. He told me once that what happened was truly a life saving miracle.

You probably aren’t in the position to just buy somebody’s house in order to financially save them but maybe a good word, a small financial gift, or even trying to help somebody find a job might be miracle life saving acts that you might give to someone.

Christmas only comes once a year if we are blessed to see and enjoy the day. Be thankful! Give thanks to God Almighty for His blessings. Don’t give ugly gestures to people on the highway. Be nice to Republicans and Democrats and Independents and all other parties— at least on Christmas.

We need more joy, smiles and happiness in America. Do your part. You are one person. If every person contributes we can truly all have a very Merry Christmas!

Dr. Glenn Mollette is President of Newburgh Theological Seminary in Newburgh, Indiana. His syndicated column appears in all 50 states. To contact him, email: GMollette@aol.com.