I was walking down Michigan Avenue in downtown Chicago a couple of days before Christmas and was amazed at what I saw.
Mixed in with the thousands of people doing their last-minute shopping among the bright lights and bustle of the holidays were a number of homeless people on the sidewalks.
Some just sit there all bundled up with their lives all contained in a couple of bags. Many have signs telling you how they lost their job or their family — or both.
Some will talk to you and beg for money.
You would like to give them all something. My wife has a much bigger heart then I do and she will pick out one or two of them to help out.
We’ve been there many times before and it never changes.
This time we were walking down the street and one homeless man was wishing everyone a merry Christmas.
“Merry Christmas,” I said back to him.
“Thank you,” he said to me. “I have been here all day and you are the first person who said ‘Merry Christmas’ back to me.”
I didn’t know if that made me feel better or worse.
As we head into another new year, we should take time to realize just how good we have it around here.
We have it good because we take care of our own. It certainly isn’t perfect, but life in Norwalk and the surrounding area is pretty darn good.
We have our problems here like everybody else.
Ohio had the second-highest number of drug overdose deaths per capita in 2016, according to a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report.
The report shows Ohio had 39.1 overdose deaths per 100,000 people last year, nearly double the national overdose death rate of 19.8 deaths per 100,000. That number was a sharp increase from 2015 when the CDC reported 29.9 deaths per 100,000 Ohio residents.
Only West Virginia, with 52 overdose deaths per 100,000 people, has a higher rate of death than Ohio.
Ohio’s spike fits the nationwide trend of drug overdose deaths, fueled primarily by the use of synthetic opioids. The age-adjusted death rate for drug overdoses increased 18 percent per year from 2014 to 2016.
With that in mind, think about everything we are doing in this area to help those in need. Huron County recently took a big step in the right direction.
The Huron County Peer Recovery Community Center opened recently at 30 Shady Lane in Norwalk. There are three full-time staff members, all of whom live in the city — Stephanie Clifton, Cori Marocco and James Matthews.
One person described it as a place where a 12-step program meets a community center “all in one,” where anybody on their journey to sobriety or addressing their addiction is welcome.
“We’re creating a lighthouse for recovery. … Anyone is welcome,” he said. “It’s the first one in northwest Ohio.”
People everywhere are stepping up to help out, from the Norwalk Area United Fund to The Salvation Army. Look at what all of our students do to help the needy.
As we head into 2018 let’s be thankful for what we have in our community.
We may be small in size, but our hearts are big.
That is the biggest thing we should be thankful for.
Joe Centers is Reflector managing editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.