As 2012 fades into memory, we look forward to the blank slate that is 2013. With the still fresh wounds of the horror and destruction of the two Sandys — Superstorm Sandy and Sandy Hook Elementary School – the usual New Year’s Resolutions like losing weight seem frivolous and off key. These two cataclysmic events reminded us to count the blessings that we too often take for granted – family, children, grandchildren, home, health, and safety.
Ann Curry’s #26Acts of Kindness hits the mark with an imperative for each of us to give of ourselves in big or small ways to honor the memories of the Newtown victims. So does the 92Y’s #GivingTuesday initiative, which puts charitable giving front and center.
With so much devastation around us, we can only hope that 2013 will be brighter. Our New Year’s Resolutions – instead of being narrow and selfish – can truly help to make things better. They can also model for our children and grandchildren what is truly important. I, for one, am going to abandon my usual resolutions in favor of the following:
- Be kinder
- Be more compassionate
- Be more understanding
- Be less critical
- Complain less
- Praise more
- Be more forgiving
- Be more generous
- Be more present
- Be more appreciative
- Worry less
- Count blessings more
For those in the northeast still feeling the after effects of Hurricane Sandy, the Thanksgiving holiday is bittersweet. It is indeed an opportunity to count our blessings – of life, health, family, community, and freedom – at the same time we survey the damage and rebuild. It recalls the first Thanksgiving when the Pilgrims offered thanks for surviving a harsh winter and for a nourishing harvest.
The parallel that comes to my mind is the aftermath of the assassination of President Kennedy in 1963. How did a shocked and grieving nation celebrate Thanksgiving and move on following this man-made tragedy? Murdered on November 22, the new President Lyndon B. Johnson addressed the nation on Thanksgiving Day, November 28. I believe it might have been the most inspiring speech Johnson ever delivered. He said:
“All of us have lived through seven days that none of us will ever forget. We are not given the divine wisdom to answer why this has been, but we are given the human duty of determining what is to be, what is to be for America, for the world, for the cause we lead, for all the hopes that live in our hearts.”
While acknowledging the tragedy, Johnson then focused on reasons for gratitude.
“More than any generation before us, we have cause to be thankful, so thankful, on this Thanksgiving Day. Our harvests are bountiful, our factories flourish, our homes are safe, our defenses are secure. We live in peace…”
How do entire communities devastated by Sandy observe Thanksgiving this year? As always, families will join together for the traditional feast and camaraderie. In areas like Long Beach, N.Y., there will be community meals for those who have lost their homes. And – as in 1963 — there will still be gratitude for the blessings that are often taken for granted.
But what is our “human duty” in the wake of Sandy?
The debate about whether the holiday buying season should begin on Thanksgiving Day or Black Friday seems crass, frivolous, and insensitive to those who are still suffering.
A more fitting alternative is the 92Y’s new initiative to inaugurate a national day of spending that emphasizes giving back. Giving Tuesday, which will be launched November 27, is bringing together charities, families, businesses and individuals in an effort to transform the way people think about, talk about and participate in the giving season.
Find a way for your family, your community, your company or your organization to join this national celebration of our great tradition of generosity. You can help by spreading the word about the importance of giving back and joining in the conversation at givingtuesday.org, or on Twitter by following the hashtag #givingtuesday.
Amid the massive devastation of super storm Sandy that has touched virtually everyone in Long Beach, L.I., the light of caring and giving shined brightly this week.
Many teachers from public and parochial schools throughout Long Island who were off on Veterans Day showed up at the Long Beach Ice Rink to help in the sorting of massive donations of food, clothing, personal items, and household supplies. Like the teachers – students who also had the day off and were out of school for much of the storm — assisted in the effort.
Six families from Great Neck showed up to sort clothing by gender and size.
“We came with our moms and brothers and sisters,” said Orli Cole, 14. “We were looking to volunteer for something, and we learned of this online.”
Jacky Kislin, also 14, said they had all volunteered the previous week in Brooklyn.
“In the last two weeks, we have had one day of school,” she said.
Outside the ice skating rink on Magnolia Boulevard, a line of people waited patiently for donated food, clothing and household supplies. Two weeks after the storm, many of the residents still did not have electricity in their homes.
In front of the ice rink, representatives from FEGS offered bagels, cream cheese, juice, and coffee to those in need.
Zach Solomon, 24, whose home had to be gutted due to the flooding, spearheaded his own effort to help storm victims. He handed out new blankets, toothpaste, toothbrushes, socks and flashlight batteries that he purchased from the money he raised. He said he thought of the idea after remembering that a friend had started a nonprofit to help Katrina victims.
“Within the first 48 hours after I sent out 150 e-mails, we had raised nearly $10,000,” Solomon said. “We used it to buy 500 blankets, and we have a lot more money left to buy other things.”
He pointed to unsorted bags of clothing that filled half the rink’s bleachers.
“It’s estimated to be in excess of 40 tons,” he said.
“We’ve taken in food and household goods and cleaning supplies, and as there is a demand for it we run it out [to those on line],” he said.
Piazza said they are planning to send what is not needed to other communities that can use it.
At the Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center of Nassau County dinner on Tuesday night, Gov. Andrew Cuomo thanked the 550 attendees for coming to the event, despite their own difficulties with the storm. Speaking about the destruction experienced by Long Beach and other communities throughout Long Island and New York City, he noted that Sandy was one of three storms he has confronted since he became governor 22 months ago. He fears Sandy is not the storm of the century, but a new reality for which we must prepare.
While promising that New York will rebuild “better and smarter,” to prepare for future storms, Cuomo noted that he was touched by the spirit of caring communities that he observed throughout the state. He noted that a lesson learned from the Holocaust – and that the Holocaust Center teaches — is that we cannot stand idly by as others suffer. He added that we are all responsible for one another, and that the ethos of kindness and cooperation is alive and well in New York State.
In the wake of Sandy, the time has never been more appropriate for the 92Y’s new initiative to inaugurate a national day of spending that emphasizes giving back. Giving Tuesday, which will be launched November 27, is garnering the support of retailers, charities, organizations and individuals to inspire a day of giving and celebration of our country’s time-honored traditions of philanthropy and volunteerism.
You can help by spreading the word about the importance of giving back and joining in the conversation at givingtuesday.org, or on Twitter by following the hashtag #givingtuesday.