Thanksgiving Message from Principal Hansen

Thanksgiving message

As we leave school to begin our Thanksgiving break, I wanted to share with you a story from my adolescence. I shared this story a few years ago and thought it was particularly worth sharing again this year. Considering the current state of the price of Turkeys and the staple items we take for granted becoming increasingly more hard to find, the sentiments hold true.

We all have that one holiday memory from our childhood that stays with us, the one we tell at family gatherings.  My holiday memory takes me back to Sunset Park Brooklyn in 1985 when I was 10. My mom worked part time as a cleaning lady and took care of me and my sister who was physically disabled and confined to a wheelchair,  and my dad worked as a maintenance man in an apartment complex. We lived paycheck to paycheck and they did their best to provide and put food on the table. Thanksgiving and Christmas were special times when my parents would save up and splurge to make sure that there was an abundance of food for us to celebrate.

One Thanksgiving though was a particularly rough time for my family, as my dad had recently lost his job and we were struggling to make ends meet. With barely enough money for bills and food, it was going to be difficult for my parents to afford a regular dinner, much less an elaborate Thanksgiving meal. With two children and Christmas right around the corner, there was a lot of tension and worry. Traveling to visit family was not an option, as we were again without a functioning car. Luckily, my grandmother graciously offered to bring all of the food from her home in Long Island to ours in Brooklyn.

Early Thanksgiving morning, on their way to Brooklyn, my Grandparents’ car broke down on the Long Island Expressway. Distraught, my parents were at a loss as the situation seemed hopeless. A neighbor invited us to dinner at their home and though my parents and sister decided to tough it out at home, I was not going to miss the opportunity for a meal…some things never change! Much to my surprise, our neighbors Thanksgiving feast was less festive than that to which we had enjoyed in my home. Instant mashed potatoes, jar gravy and canned carrots did not sit well with my palate. Always the food critic! I left before dessert! Jello? Nope! Not for me. When I returned home, I was pleased to hear that we were leaving early the next morning to travel on the LIRR to my grandparents. We would have Thanksgiving dinner just a day late.

For many years, in my young mind, the holiday was so much more about the pomp and circumstance. As the years have gone on, and one by one each holiday has brought with it its own unique set of circumstances, my priorities have shifted drastically. Though I still am a bit of a fanatic about meal planning, I realize now that it is far less about what is on the table and more about those gathered around it.

Each year, there are often too many empty seats at our holiday tables, left empty by our loved ones who have passed. Some of us are blessed by the presence of new family members or friends. The true blessings of Thanksgiving are the people we hold near and dear and the time we spend together creating memories. It is the people in our lives that truly matter most and the quality of the time spent together is far more important than anything else.

This Thanksgiving holiday, as we gather with our families, friends and loved ones, let us take the time to reflect on the love, joy and togetherness, and give thanks to God for the many blessings he has bestowed upon us.  

Let us pray for those who do not have families or loved ones near to share in the beauty of this day, that they too know God’s love. I am grateful for our St. Joseph Hill Academy family and all that we share together. I wish all of you and your families at home, all God’s blessings. As I gather with my loved ones, I will pray for all of you, that this day be bountiful and filled with the love of family and friends.
Mr. Lawrence Hansen
SJHA Elementary School Principal
November 2021