Thanksgiving morning greeted us with bright sunshine and 53 degrees. Taz is visiting, and we spend the morning in Manhattan, watching bits of the parade, enjoying the views of the large balloons that we'd seen being inflated the night before.
We then made our way to the Bronx (accidentally, as I put us on the wrong train), and eventually out to the Rockaways, by subway and by bus.
On Rockaway, we walked the beach to a section I'd never been to, and Taz got to view first hand the destruction to the homes and businesses. Houses were tilted sideways, brick, metal and concrete strewn across the front yards.
The most eerie thing I saw was the complete front and side missing from one house, exposing a dining room table perched precariously and hazardously, and a hall closet with the door open, showing a row of jackets still limp on their hangers.
Trash littered the front sidewalks, but just a fragment of how it was last week, and a white film of dust covered the streets, sidewalks, cars, houses, trees, shrubs.
As we made our way back down the street, I noticed brightly painted wooden stars nailed to telephone poles. Someone had painted these wooden stars and written words on them, including love, hope, kindness and faith.
After walking the beach, with its hazard of destroyed houses, perched like crazy Coney Island rides in the sand, and passing through quiet, dark streets, these bright beacons dotting the horizon were like an oasis for the soul, bright lights filtering through the shadows imprinted on the heart after viewing such devastation. Symbols of hope...
We ended our Thanksgiving Day by volunteering with New York Cares, providing dinners to residents. The large canvas tents kept people warm with a cornucopia of heaters, a welcome retreat for those still without power and electricity.
Food donated by Fairway, other nonprofits, businesses and individuals, was dished out by volunteers. Rows of tables were lined with large pans filled with turkey, ham, pasta, stuffing, vegetables, rice, beans, corn, lasagna, cranberry sauce and pie, cake, muffin, juice, water, coffee and soda.
Walking up to the line was an act of humility and grace for both volunteers and residents. All were met by Sally, a kind volunteer who offered napkins soaked in warm water as hand towels, a small gesture, but filled with love, providing warmth and dignity to the body and to the heart.
Plate after plate was filled, as hunger was satiated and a reprieve from the cold was offered, moments away from the stark reality of the vast amount of work still required to even begin the process of "recovery", never mind normalacy.
We sat with locals Christina and Stephen, residents who shared their table and stories of their experience, living through Hurricane Sandy.
Boarding the little orange school bus, a signature of New York Cares volunteer efforts, we joined about 20 other volunteers on the ride across the Manhattan Bridge and delivered food to the Bowery Mission. Walking with volunteer Rick to the subway station, we parted with greetings of Happy Thanksgiving and soon landed in bed with full bellies and hearts overflowing with gratitude for the many blessings in our lives.