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You successfully navigated Halloween and Thanksgiving, and now face the very heart of the winter holiday season. We trust you are ready, and are not one of those people who postpone Christmas shopping until late in the afternoon of Dec. 24.

While we all map out strategies for the next few weeks, there are a few important things we need to keep in mind:

This is a season of joy, and the very last thing you want to do is cause another person any kind of grief. That is especially important this time of year.

People are distracted, perhaps even more than they would be during the non-holiday season. Distraction assumes many forms, and in so many cases distraction can be deadly.

We heard a report recently that distracted-driving crashes in which cell phone use plays a direct role have replaced driving-under-the-influence incidents, at least on certain highways. It’s not a difficult assumption to make for anyone who has motored along behind a car weaving like a drunkard leaving a tavern, only to discover on driving by that vehicle that the driver is — you guessed it — glued to his or her phone, illegal as that may be.

Roses to everyone who gets it, understands the potential consequences, and ignores their phone while driving. There are stiff fines for illegal phone use, but none worse than causing a deadly crash.

Being a safe, careful driver is critically important because this is the season that so many children’s minds seem to disappear into space. It used to be visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads, but we’re fairly certain that’s an obsolete concept.

The result is the same, however — kids are distracted by the excitement of the Christmas holiday, and as they often do during the Halloween sugar-fest, will dart into the street without warning.

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Don’t be the driver who makes the mistake of being distracted, and hitting a child.

When you’ve accomplished the task of saving lives, the next big hurdle is keeping your mental balance during the holidays. The Black Friday shop-a-thon demonstrates just how chaotic this time of year can be, and it also sets the stage for several weeks of high anxiety for many Americans.

So, roses to those who can keep it together, focusing instead on the peace, comfort and joy aspects of the holiday season.

To help achieve such an goal, you might try thinking outside your immediate family, and consider the situation faced by tens of thousands of county residents, including many families with children who don’t have the financial resources to either feed their families, or supply a little holiday joy through gift-giving.

We can all start by supporting food drives operated by the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County. It doesn’t take much from each individual to feed a family that otherwise might not have enough to eat. The experts at the Foodbank can turn your dollar into about $7 worth of food, thanks to bulk buying.

Another great opportunity is made possible by the annual Toys for Tots campaign, which strives to ensure that no child goes without at least one gift to open. It doesn’t cost much, and giving sure makes the donor feel good.

We have devoted all the Saturdays so far this year to handing out roses to people and organizations that do good stuff, with an occasional batch of raspberries for those who do far less. In a perfect world, we would be dealing out only sweet-smelling flowers. Let’s set that goal.

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