What does Christmas mean to you? Is it snow on the mountain or garland strung on banisters? Is it pictures with Santa or your favorite Holiday song on the radio? Is it shopping for the perfect gift or attending the church Nativity play? For many of us in the mountains, the Christmas season is about homecoming; families traveling from across the state and nation back to their hometowns to gather and celebrate all of what Christmas entails, especially the birth of Christ.
I shamelessly anticipate this time with my family, and carry on many traditions, like many of you. But this Christmas, with so many families and communities struggling with job loss and economic hardship, I propose we not only focus on the decorations and delicacies, but also on the notion of homecoming and helping each other out during these tough times.
There are countless opportunities to celebrate and support our hometowns, one of the most obvious being to shop locally. Our small businesses are the backbones of our economy, and over 90 percent of sales revenue stays local! These businesses employ many of our neighbors, and maintain unique and native goods in our area. So instead of hopping online and buying that trinket or toy, drop by your local craft, clothing, art store or flower shop. You will be surprised what you find!
In addition to supporting locally owned businesses, I encourage you to look for other avenues to celebrate homecoming. Charitable giving peaks this time of year and there are plenty of local organizations to support. Instead of that Harley Davidson T-shirt or snowman shaped soap dispenser, how about the gift of charity? Consider a donation in the name of a loved one to your local animal shelter, hospice center, homeless shelter, or foster parent organization. In lieu of gifts at the office, Secret Santa’s can donate a present to a child in need on behalf of their chosen recipient. Or, check with your church about buying a poinsettia in memory or honor of a loved one. This small purchase will decorate your place of worship during Advent and benefit the church. I bet you’ll even get to take it home after the Christmas service!
Let’s do our part to support small businesses that our communities count on. They are vital to a thriving economy. If I learned anything from the Shaping Our Appalachian Region Summit (SOAR) this past week, it was the resilience and distinctiveness of our hometowns.
I wish you and your family a very merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
The General Assembly is less than a month away, beginning Jan. 7, and will be a 60-day session as we work on the budget as well as other legislation. As always, you can call me anytime at my office in Frankfort at 502-564-8100.