Thursday, Nov. 24, is Thanksgiving Day in America, a day set aside both for good eating and for gratitude.
On an unseasonably warm day in New York’s Foley Square, Mone and her two young daughters, Jasiyah and Damayah, are busy preparing for the holiday.
"This Thanksgiving, I am grateful for having my own Thanksgiving, my first family dinner that I am cooking - and that my mom isn’t cooking at all,” says Mone, who admits to being a bit nervous. “I hope I don’t burn anything or overheat anything, that it all comes out good.”
Mone teaches her two daughters to be appreciative of what they have.
“I’m grateful for God for making the world, that I am alive," says Damayah, "for the food I have, for the clothes I have on my body, for the place I stay in, and for my mom.”
At the city clerk’s office down the street, Paulina and Parker are obtaining a license so they can get married over the holiday weekend. They are thankful for true love and more.
“Everything is going to be peachy,” the red-headed bride says with a grin. "I am grateful for this guy.”
Her groom takes a more cosmic approach. “I am grateful for the fact that the sun shines and the sky is blue and the earth is at the specific point where it needs to be to sustain life, and the solar system and the galaxy," he says. "Of all the epochs to be born, I am here right now with this beautiful woman, exactly where I am supposed to be.”
Nearby, a man named Vincent, who says he is homeless, is not where he’s supposed to be.
"I was evicted four weeks ago, I feel, illegally. Nevertheless, even though there are many, many devils out to put you down and thwart you, there are equally as many angels willing to help you.”
The angels Vincent refers to are people like the bus drivers who let him board free of charge or at half price, or those who come up to him offering free food. “I will be eternally grateful for that,” he says. “I’ve been able to persevere with the help of the human spirit.”
Ronald - who works at a nearby homeless shelter and who was once homeless himself - is able to persevere thanks to the doctors who recently rid him of excruciating chronic back pain. “So I am grateful I came out of surgery a success.”
A few blocks away, it is simple youthful freedom that a bicyclist named Mike is thankful for.
“I’m just grateful that I have a job and be able to do what I do," he says. "I have a little bit of money and I do whatever the hell I want on the side.”
A woman named Charles expresses her gratitude in somewhat more religious terms.
“What am I grateful for this Thanksgiving? Life. Strength. And that God blessed me and opened my eyes,” she says. “The job that I have, that I can pay a bill and probably help someone less fortunate than me. So to me, every day is Thanksgiving.”
Like hundreds of other Occupy Wall Street protesters, Jason and Oksana have been ejected from Zucotti Park. Yet both still managed to carry a sense of blessing with them. Jason says he is grateful for dreams, and the chance to follow them.
His girlfriend is more effusive. “This Thanksgiving, I am grateful for my boyfriend, my dogs, sleeping bags that we managed to somehow salvage. There are lots of good people in the community.”
A fellow activist named Brandon, still sodden from the previous night’s rain, is thankful for the right to speak out under the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment rights.
“Sometimes they get respected. Sometimes they get disrespected some," Brandon says. "But I am just grateful we live in a country where, when things do go wrong, we can stand up and we can say, ‘Hey, this is wrong and it needs to be changed.’”
A downtown resident named Barbara has not participated in the protests, yet she appreciates the idealistic spirit that underlies them.
“I am extraordinarily grateful that people have been willing to give up their time and make such a commitment to staying outside in the cold and the rain and to try to bring about social justice. I am very grateful for their commitment on Thanksgiving.”
Some thoughts to chew on along with all the roast turkey and the trimmings this Thanksgiving Day.