Daily acts of compassion, generosity can save a child

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February 3, 2010


by Sen. Carlos Uresti

But for his grandmother, Jovonie Ochoa would be 10 years old — bright eyed and energetic, enjoying a holiday break from school and looking forward to the excitement of Christmas morning.

He would know how to use a computer by now and perhaps be an avid gamer. He might love sports, animals, remote-controlled cars, the freedom of summer and the allure of Saturdays.  But Jovonie's world never unfolded to such wonder and anticipation. He never experienced the exuberance — and pain — of that first crush.

On the sixth anniversary of his tragic death, we must pause and ask — how do we best remember Jovonie and help other tormented children during a season of goodness and joy?

We do so through daily acts of kindness and generosity — rivulets of personal action that flow together into an ocean of good will.

For thousands of kids across Texas, Christmas will be like any other day, marked by hunger, neglect, fear, physical and emotional violence and sexual abuse.  And as we look forward to Christmas and the promise of a new year, it is not a time to hide our eyes from these children or even briefly glance away.

Jovonie's story — he was starved by his grandmother and died at age four on Christmas Day 2003 — shook San Antonio and stirred many to action on behalf of abused and neglected children.  And while efforts are made to effect systemic changes in state policy, we must work each day as individuals to save and improve young lives. We can keep many children out of harm's way just by being good people and good neighbors.

Is there a family on your street having a hard time? Has a neighbor lost their job? Does a single mom work in your office or live next door? Pick up a few extra items the next time you go food shopping; meet them at the gas station and fill up their car; volunteer to babysit and give them a night off; tell them about the 211 non-emergency number for social services and programs; send a check to the local food bank; urge your friends and your church to pitch in and help. Always be on the lookout for signs of abuse.

And most of all, don't let your compassion and vigilance fade with the season.  Try to be a caring neighbor throughout the year.

It is too late for Jovonie, and no doubt others like him will be taken from us in time.  But individually we can make a difference for struggling families and kids at risk for abuse, in countless ways through our everyday lives. It is not necessary to save the whole world to save one child.