Thoughts This Thanksgiving

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As I sat on the bed, watching the parade this morning and trying so hard to catch a glimpse of our son, who marched with the Rutgers Marching Scarlet Knights, I reflected on what Thanksgiving - giving thanks - really means.

For many of us, it’s a time to gather with family and friends, eat way too much delicious food, and spend joyful hours together as we relax after the frenzy of preparing for this day. We spend days and weeks planning - shopping, cooking, making travel plans. We fuss over turkeys, worry over what Uncle Gabe might say this year, and fret over whether we have enough sides planned. In the end, it’s the being together that matters most.

For one of my friends, this Thanksgiving marks the terrible anniversary of her teen son’s death. He died by suicide last year, during his first semester at college and just days before he was supposed to get on the train that would bring him home for this holiday. Tomorrow is the unveiling of his headstone, a Jewish tradition that marks the end of the one-year period of mourning. For this family, and the student I taught for many years who is now without his big brother, Thanksgiving will never, ever be the same.

War is raging in different parts of the world. People we don’t know, and people we do, are suffering. Hostility and chaos dominate the news. Communities here are mourning as we watch, helpless, as battles are fought over land, ideologies, and the rights of various peoples to self-determination.

It feels especially difficult this year to focus on giving thanks…and yet, there is much to be thankful for.

I am grateful to my grandparents, my dad’s parents, who made it out of Germany before the Nazis could round them up. Most of my grandpa’s family were not so lucky and they perished in the Holocaust.

I am grateful to my parents, who raised my sister and me with strong ties to our family and to our wider community.

I am grateful to my husband’s parents, who brought him into the world and raised him to be the kind, generous, and thoughtful man I met in my late twenties.

I am grateful for our son, whose remarkable curiosity and thirst for knowledge is leading him to such success in college.

I am grateful to live in this community, where that same son was schooled, fell in love with music and the marching band, and made some wonderful friends. This community, filled with so many colors, religions, ethnic backgrounds, and languages, has helped to shape him into the accepting, amazing human he is. It showed him that we are all more alike than not, and that we can all live, work, and play together…no matter our differences.

I could go on for pages and pages, listing the many blessings we share here in Clifton, where neighbors gather food for those who are hungry, buy warm coats for those who are cold, and give so much to help lift each other up. Our differences don’t define us; our humanity does. Time and again, we show that Clifton really is the City That Cares.

This Thanksgiving, I hope that we can all take a moment to consider the many ways in which we are blessed, and bask in the gratitude for those gifts.

I am wishing all of you peace, joy, and love today and all days. Happy Thanksgiving, Clifton.



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