A Coney Island Thanksgiving to remember

When I decided to make this trip to the New York area for Thanksgiving, I must admit, there was a small part of me that wondered/worried that I would miss the standard Thanksgiving Day festivities.

After about five minutes on Coney Island today, that all vanished. When we decided to come, this is what I envisioned Thanksgiving Day could look like. Combined with our experiences on Staten Island yesterday, what happened today will give me and my kids (my mom, too!) some indellible memories.

The operation at MCU Park (home of the Brooklyn Cyclones) was impressive, thanks to the fine work of the Alliance for Coney Island (Once again, check out their site at coneyrecovers.org). They were handing out food, serving hot meals AND busing folks to a big catering hall for a sit-down Thanksgiving dinner. Simply amazing.

We got right to work, wherever help was needed, spending the next couple of hours bagging snacks, bagging hot turkey dinners and handing them out to people who came. And, sadly, there were a lot of people in need. I was told the line stretched out of the parking lot and down the street at 8 a.m., so even more kudos to the Alliance for Coney Island for serving all those people and helping them have some semblance of a holiday.

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Former big leaguer John Halama, in the slideshow above, who lives in Bay Ridge, came to help as well. And here’s the amazing thing. He was just fine being there without anyone knowing who he was. He just wanted to help his fellow New Yorkers out. I did make sure that NY1 interviewed him while they were down there — if anyone happened to see it, let me know — but he certainly wasn’t looking for publicity. He just wanted to help people. Oh, and he’s trilingual — didn’t even speak English until he was around 9 — who knew?

I’ll have video of this, with Halama and Nate Bliss from the Alliance for Coney Island, but didn’t have the wherewithal to get it done tonight. The work is just beginning. But I’ll tell you, New Yorkers are resilient. The positivity that came from these people, who have been through so much, was inspiring. As my son said so astutely, especially for an 11-year-old: “They’re all so appreciative.”

And that was my hope for this trip. To be inspired and hopefully inspire my kids. There’s a basic concept we talk about in our family — “living by our ideals” — and this felt like the perfect way to do this for this holiday. I can’t begin to tell you how proud I am of my children, watching them give food to families, to kids their own age at times, along with a smile. These two days are among my proudest as a parent.

So we’ll drive home tomorrow, and thanks to the wonderful Mrs. B3 and her parents (that’s right, I love my in-laws!), we’re having our own Thanksgiving dinner on Saturday. Without their flexibility and support, this wouldn’t have been so easy to pull off.

And I can assure you, for me and hopefully my two kids, we will never be the same. The folks we served today were appreciative. But it us who should give thanks, to have the ability to help in a time of need, to lift spirits when they are down. As my daughter said, when I asked her about what it was like to give food to kids her own age, she said, “I thought about that if you hadn’t moved from New York, maybe we could have been hit by the hurricane.” In other words, like with any of life’s tragedies, you learn that you never know when it could be you who needs help. The fact that my kids understand that, and the need to always pay it forward, is priceless.

OK, I’ve waxed on about this for long enough, but don’t be shocked if I do throw in some more posts on baseball meeting social consciousness in the future.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

1 Comment

Jonathan, you’ve left your kids, and anyone who reads this,
such a lesson in tikkun olam. The next generation of Stock-Mayo kids will learn from your kids. Kids learn what they live.

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