Thanksgiving, Unity and Gratitude!

From left Rhonda Binda, Councilman Eric Ulrich, Dr. Dhanpaul Narine and Rosemary at Villa Russo


Thanksgiving is a wonderful time to show gratitude. It costs nothing to be nice and to show appreciation. The power of nice has been recognized from time immemorial and in today’s society it is needed more than ever. As we sit and stare blankly at a screen or text or surf for endless hours how about doing something nice to others?

Councilman Eric Ulrich decided to do something to bring cheer to others. Last year, he organized a free Thanksgiving Day dinner for the less privileged. It was held at the Arabella Castle in Ozone Park. It turned out to be a great success. Councilman Ulrich said at the time, ‘The holidays can be stressful or sad or lonely for some people. There are some people that have nowhere to go. I wanted them to spend Thanksgiving with me.’

The event was so successful that Councilman Ulrich repeated it this year. It was held at Villa Russo in Richmond Hill. The venue was made available at no cost and businesses from Ulrich’s District donated the food. His office also arranged transportation for those with disabilities. The owner of Villa Russo is George Russo. He said that he was happy to host the event and thanked Eric Ulrich and the donors. Mr. Russo said, ‘nothing makes me happy than to give back to the community. It’s great to see the joy on the faces of the people. They are here enjoying the festivities and we are happy to serve them. This is what Thanksgiving is about.’

Jayden and his mom Shireese Singh volunteered at the Thanksgiving event.

I was happy to volunteer at Villa Russo. There were around 74 volunteers and 120 persons were treated to a sumptuous dinner with all the trimmings. One family from Astoria said that this was the best event that could have happened to them. It gave them the chance to get out of the home and to meet with other nice people. The volunteers included persons with vehicles that transported those that needed a ride.

Shireese Singh took her son Jayden who is five years old. Jayden was thrilled to meet with the seniors and he became the youngest volunteer. Another volunteer, Rhonda Binda, said that the idea of giving back was great. More organizations should get involved and serve the community, she said. The volunteers were from all walks of life and they included teachers, students, social workers, and others.

Councilman Eric Ulrich said that he was pleased with the turnout and the contribution of the volunteers. He has promised to hold another such event next year and he thanked all, including George Russo from ‘Villa Russo’ for making many people happy for Thanksgiving. His grandmother, Rosemary, was on hand to lend support and she described the event as simply amazing.

Who can forget 2007 when Wesley Autrey did the unthinkable? He was standing at the 137th Street platform in New York when a passenger, Cameron Hallopeter, fell onto the tracks. Autrey, a father of two, could hear the coming train. He had only a split second to think. He jumped on top of Hallopeter and pinned him down in the tracks as the train passed over missing them by an inch. When the train ground to a halt Hallopeter kept asking, ‘Are we dead, are we in heaven?’ Autrey replied, ‘ no you are alive, just keep hanging on dude!’ This incident made its way to the White House where it was written into the State of the Union speech of President George. W. Bush.

In a similar subway case in 2008 Veeramuthu Kalimuthu sprang into action at the 116th platform when he hoisted an unconscious man to safety. He jumped onto the subway tracks across the deadly third rail to rescue the man just as the train was approaching. Kalimuthu said, ‘ I just sprang into action. If you are in a position to help somebody, help somebody.’ Kalimuthu is originally from Guyana and lists cricket as one of his hobbies.

The attitude of gratitude, of being nice to others, has long been part of our make up but all too frequently we have lost the common touch. We need to give of ourselves and let the ripples do their own work. Psychologists have pointed out that gratitude conjures up positive emotions such as joy, love and happiness. It takes us to a warm and humble place where there are feelings of connectedness and satisfaction. What is wonderful is that gratitude can be contagious. A grateful person won’t think twice about helping others, and since good things happen to us all the time, gratitude should be celebrated.

Pandit Chunelall Narine lights the traditional lamp at the Diwali celebrations at Gracie Mansion as Mayor Bill de Blasio looks on approvingly.

There are several ways in which one can show care and consideration for others. One of the most effective is to find out the welfare of our neighbors. How many people know their neighbors or care about them? If you are lucky enough to know your neighbor the chances are that you will find a treasure. A number of religions point out that goodness emanates from a being that is higher than ourselves.

The Mayor of New York, Mr. Bill de Blasio invited the community to celebrate the festival of Diwali at Gracie Mansion. Hundreds turned up to participate in the event. Pandit Chunelall Narine, the priest-in-charge of the Shri Trimurti Bhavan in Queens, gave the welcoming speech for the second year in a row. He greeted persons from all faiths and said that Diwali was a time for light to conquer darkness and for love to triumph over hate. Diwali is a festival that is celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, and Jains, among others.

Mayor de Blasio said that Diwali ‘is a beautiful celebration of a beautiful community. But it is not only about bright lights. Diwali reminds us that wisdom outshines ignorance and unity defeats division.’ He applied the concept of unity to the United States, especially in Washington D.C. If the elected officials in Washington work for unity America would be a much better place.


The views expressed in this article are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the position or policy of the THE WEST INDIAN.