We Give Thanks

By: Kymberlee, Riley Way Council Member, TYWLS of East Harlem

We love our bread, we love our butter, but most of all we love each other. . . let the feast begin!

-Ms. Haynes opening the meal

One of our major values at Riley’s Way is our commitment to community service. Community service can be demonstrated by many different acts of kindness. One of the special ways that we, as Council members give back to our community, is by volunteering at Sisulu-Walker Charter School’s annual Etiquette Lunch and Thanksgiving Feast. This annual lunch is not only an opportunity for the elementary students of Sisulu-Walker to share what they are grateful for but also to reflect on how their actions can affect others. As we said the grace, as quoted above, we emphasized the importance of helping out those in need while realizing how fortunate we all are.

Each year we are excited about the idea of a meal with our friends and family that we may fail to acknowledge how privileged we are to be able to share these moments together. Although this was my first year volunteering at Sisulu-Walker, I was able to see that the real meaning behind the event was giving back. Giving back through the Riley’s Way lens means to be selfless and loving towards those who have been there to support us through it all and to also give back to those in need. While we reflect and give thanks for the simple things in life, It’s important to express our gratitude in as many ways possible.  Whichever job I was doing at the lunch, whether it was with table decor or pouring 150 drinks for all the students, I gave it my all, knowing it is a small act of kindness that was going to go a long way. As the principal of Sisulu Walker Charter School, Ms. Haynes stated: “giving up your time to help others is precious.” We could spend all the money in the world on monetary gifts, but the greatest gifts of all are the moments we share with one another.

Looking back at this meaningful experience, I’m extremely grateful to have shared it with people who expressed their gratitude in such a special way. Not only did this luncheon provide food and company for the children in our community, but it also provided a time and space for Council members to live in the moment and escape from life’ stresses. It truly amazes me how in such a short amount of time, we were able to use kindness and empathy to create meaningful connections with one another. Through our conversations and laughs, I felt a sense of happiness and pride to know that I’d made a small but meaningful impact on their day.

The kids at the Sisulu-Walker Charter School reminded me of what Thanksgiving truly is about. Thanksgiving is a time to give, a time to love, and a time to reflect upon the things that matter most in life. I am not ashamed to say that the kids there definitely taught me more about life than they learned from me. In numerous ways, they taught me that in our fast-paced world, it’s important we don’t forget the power of kindness. Spending a Thanksgiving feast with these amazing kids was a special experience I will hold on to forever. I’m looking forward to picking up the conversations right where they left off next year!

I hope your Thanksgiving is filled with peace, love, and great joy!