Gratitude, 2015

Gratitude, 2015

There’s a lot to be anxious about these days.

Terrorism around the world punctures our sense of security, and prompts xenophobic backlash against our neighbors and those seeking protection from this very sort of terror.

Climate change threatens the world we will hand our kids.

Growing inequality makes it harder for people just to get by.

We struggle across racial divides, as we see video of yet another young African-American man killed needlessly in an encounter with police, and violence comes to those protesting peacefully to change an unfair system.

And at times, the changes in our communities – new development, skyrocketing rents, rising homelessness – make us feel we are losing our neighborhoods.

So I’m glad that Thanksgiving is here, to remind us of all we have to be grateful for.

Researchers have found that gratitude reduces the risk of heart disease, helps you get more sleep, makes you more optimistic, and helps you make more friends.

For me, I find that the things I’m most grateful for are usually the things we do together. Here are a few I’m thinking about this Thanksgiving:

I'm grateful for the way we've come together in Brooklyn, after attacks in Paris, Beirut, and Kenya. Just a few weeks ago we stood together in Carroll Park with Christian, Jewish, and Muslim clergy, praying for the victims and standing resolute against terrorism, but also denouncing Islamophobia and the hateful rhetoric directed at Muslim refugees fleeing this same terror. We are nation of immigrants, bonded together by the welcoming torch of Lady Liberty just a few short yards off our Brooklyn shores. As a Jew, I know my people were refugees not too long ago (check out this great article by the head of the Anti Defamation League), and I'm grateful to be part of a community that strives to learn the lessons of history.

I’m grateful that our City is protected by such dedicated, committed, and fearless first responders. When Borough Park was shaken by an explosion and the collapse of two buildings this fall, the community rallied immediately to assist those impacted by the collapse. And our firefighters, police officers, medics, and many others went above and beyond the call of duty to ensure the safety of the neighborhood, and the best care possible for those affected. I was honored to be able to share my gratitude for those brave individuals at a breakfast hosted by the Boro Park JCC this past weekend. Incidents like that also make us realize how prepared New York City is for anything that comes its way.

I’m grateful for the workers who have found the courage to stand up together – from car wash to fast-food workers – and the support our community has provided. Last Thanksgiving, the car-washeros were on strike. This year, they have a union and a contract. They had the guts to stand up, and we were there to help. Meanwhile, Brooklyn’s fast-food workers started organizing just after Thanksgiving three years ago – against all odds, they have won a path to earning $15 per hour, and sparked a global movement. I feel deeply grateful to have been at their very first demonstration, and to have been inspired by them every step of the way.

I’m grateful for the organizing that my daughter Rosa (with a lot of help from my wife, Meg), her friends, and 130 young readers did through “Girls Read for Girls” last weekend. Together, they raised over $17,000 for the Malala Fund to make sure girls around the world can go to school (you can still give here).

I’m grateful for the extraordinary Brooklyn neighborhoods where we live. I know that residents of Cobble Hill are anxious about what will happen at LICH. And residents of Kensington are concerned about the new homeless shelter for families with children opening soon (more on that here). But let’s take a minute to reflect on what remarkable communities we call home – with so many different great shops, local businesses, and restaurants you can walk to, Prospect Park (and so many other parks, large and small) where we all can come together, great public schools, good public transit (I know, the F, G, and R trains are so often late, but even so), and so much more. These neighborhoods have been made great by neighbors working together – through government, not-for-profits, civic groups, volunteers, churches, synagogues, mosques. I know it’s corny, but I think of participatory budgeting (PBNYC) as one way of our taking care of these public treasures.  

I’m grateful for the public schools that help our kids learn, grow, create, and solve problems together. It’s frustrating when they are overcrowded, have stressful relocation issues (we are with you, MS 442!), or over-rely on testing. And it is shameful that they are so segregated. But it is extraordinary communities of educators, staff (including the school crossing guards, cafeteria workers, and custodians who deserve our gratitude), parents, and kids that make our neighborhood public schools a true cradle of the democratic New York City we want.

I’m grateful to represent a community that is deeply committed to organizing for compassion and justice. It’s no secret that a lot of my district (though certainly not all of it, by any means) is better off than many other places. Despite that, I know you want – no, more than want; you organize – to end hunger, homelessness, discriminatory policing, mass incarceration, segregated schools, and poverty wages. You help create the organizations committed to combating climate change and ending traffic deaths. You believe in working together for something bigger than yourself.

I’m grateful for organized compassion, in so many forms. And grateful to have the chance (along with my dynamite staff, who I’m especially grateful for) to represent you, and to try to help keep us moving forward together.

I hope you’ll take a minute around your Thanksgiving table to think about the things you’re grateful for, share them with each other, and share some with me.

Happy Thanksgiving.

-Brad

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