What We're Thankful For

What We're Thankful For

It’s easy to be cynical about Thanksgiving – to get lost in excesses of turkey and pumpkin pie and “black Friday” consumerism.  The holiday’s history is complicated (as my daughter, who is studying Westward Expansion, keeps reminding me), rooted in a moment when our young country was disenfranchising Native Americans who were already here.

Still, the act of expressing gratitude is a supremely powerful one.  So I try to take a minute each year to say a little about what I’m thankful for.  This year, in the “participatory” tradition of the office, we asked you to share some of your thoughts as well.  I’ve tried to weave together a bit of what I’m grateful for individually with just a few of the beautiful sentiments that some of you shared.

Personally, I’m grateful for the continued opportunity to represent a set of communities whose residents share a real passion for working together to make our shared lives better.  Even in our darkest moments, we come together to provide strength and comfort and find hope. 

“I'm grateful for how our community comes together when times get tough and when we need each other's support. I'm grateful that I live in a neighborhood that is truly a community, both caring and engaged.” – Caron Atlas

 This year, we’re grieving the still-unthinkable loss of Sammy Cohen-Epstein, and working to make sure his memory is an enduring blessing.  Some of the most powerful moments of gratitude over the past month included a moving concert at MS 51 where students and artists raised money in Sammy’s memory, and the unforgettable testimony of Sammy’s family at a City Council hearing demanding action toward slower traffic and safer streets (I hope you’ll join them, and me, for the community forum founding the Park Slope Street Safety Partnership next Tuesday evening).

“I'm thankful for the continued work of the DOT. They work hard every day to make roads safer, which is especially important for our elderly and children walking the streets.” – John Kelly

 We just observed the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Sandy, and I’m inspired by how many people are still volunteering with neighbors they met after the storm, still rising to “the recovery of … purpose and closeness without crisis or pressure” that author Rebecca Solnit rightly calls “the great contemporary task of becoming human.”

“For all the volunteers who came to Old First in relief of super storm Sandy.” – Rev. Daniel Meeter

 This week, I’m grateful to Lawrence Abdullah, who helped the NYPD catch the groper who was assaulting young girls in our neighborhood.  He’s building on the tradition of women and volunteers and community groups who came together a few years ago in the wake of a string of assaults.

I’m extraordinarily thankful for the support and partnership of remarkable set of friends, staff, and family.  My staff (Rachel, Michael, Catherine, Alex, Emma, Vicki, Gabi, and an unbelievably hard-working set of interns) really never cease to amaze me in how hard they work, how patient they are, how committed they are to making a difference – in bringing people together, in moving forward on legislation, shaping projects in participatory budgeting, and trying to help with each individual problem they possibly can.

I’m most deeply thankful for my own family.  My job too often means sacrifices for them – time that I’m not around, household responsibilities of mine that go unmet, gratitude that I don’t find time to speak.  But their support and love and creativity at the deepest roots of what moves me every day.  Rosa (with a lot of help from Meg) and her friends just organized a Girls-Read-for-Girls readathon inspired by Malala Yousafzai, where over 100 girls raised over $5,000 for Women for Afghan Women.  Marek’s first year in high school is a wonderful (if sometimes a little terrifying) lesson for me in what growing up in NYC looks like these days. As always, I am ever grateful for my Mom and Dad and my sister, as so many of my core values come from them. And my whole world looks different thanks to my unbelievable good fortune to be married to Meg Barnette, whose compassion and insights and leadership are so often, for me, life’s most enduring blessing.  

As we move forward toward 2014, I’m both grateful and inspired by the political moment – and the commitment to build a city that is more equal, more just, and more compassionate.  If it’s easy to get cynical about Thanksgiving, its impossible not to be cynical about our politics.  

And yet, here we are at a moment when we’ve committed to do more to make sure our city’s prosperity is better shared.  That all our kids get the opportunities created by early childhood education.  That all workers will have paid sick days so they don’t have to choose between their job and the health of their families.  That more families can find an affordable place to call home.  

“Having lived in a city where the generosity of others made it possible for me to rise out of poverty. For me, sharing is an obligation” – Jerry


“The good fortune to live among the most caring and wonderful neighbors -- both long time residents and those who are recent arrivals. Our strength as a community is rooted in our tapestry of neighbors.”  - Lorraine Muczyn

“I'm thankful for living in a city that manages to be both a bustling global hub of opportunity and thriving complexity, while being a livable, evolving and learning system that doesn't just have representative "listeners" but encourages direct participation and involvement of its citizenry.” - David Bianciardi

“I am thankful for the love of God, my family, my community and for freedom that we so often take for granted.” – Pauline Blake

“I'm thankful for the continued work of the DOT. They work hard every day to make roads safer, which is especially important for our elderly and children walking the streets.” – John Kelly

“I'm thankful for the excellent cooks in our district. They make going to potlucks a delight!” – Sarah Litvin

“I am thankful for the teachers, staff, administration, children and parents – the community -- at P.S. 10.” – Dempsey Rice

 “I live in the "Columbia Street waterfront" area, and I am thankful as ever for the community gardens here and the gardeners who have made them so beautiful!! I live with my family in a fantastic but small apartment and the gardens give us both mental and physical space that make me happy every time I walk in. Thank you!” – Jesse

”I’m very thankful that my immediate family is healthy and leading productive lives.”

”I am thankful for my family, my friends, and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden --an oasis in the city and my friendly neighbors in Park Slope.  I am thankful for the many initiatives our mayor took on behalf of the health of the citizens of NYC.  I am thankful that a city councilman cared enough to ask.” – Riva 

 “I am thankful for our diverse city.” – John

“I am extremely thankful for the wonderful teachers in our neighborhood.  They work so hard and we owe them so much.  The future success of our children is in their hands and they take that very seriously. Happy Thanksgiving!” - Rosanne Limoncelli

“I am thankful for the good fortune to live among the most caring and wonderful neighbors -- both long time residents and those who are recent arrivals. Our strength as a community is rooted in our tapestry of neighbors.”  - Lorraine Muczyn

None of that will be easy.  But I’m grateful for the honor of working together with you to give it a try.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

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