It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the negativity that seems to consume so much of our modern world. From victims of violence in our own backyards to those trapped in the horrific fires or mass shootings in California, there’s ample reason for despair.
The Thanksgiving holiday, then, presents both a challenge and — if we seize it— an opportunity to find a reason to hope. We recall that it was President Lincoln who decreed that this holiday become a national event— an attempt, no doubt, to stitch together a fractured, badly wounded, and long slave-tolerating republic.
It is in that context that we turn to our home front to find examples of the simple kindness and generous spirit that we seek to counter the bleak headlines and general malaise of a nation adrift in mediocrity and meanness.
We choose to begin with the Martin Richard Foundation, which is a living memorial to our young neighbor, Martin, who was stolen from us in 2013. His parents and siblings— supported by a network of good and kind friends— keep Martin’s memory alive in ways that continue to inspire and challenge us to be better. The grief of Martin’s death is constant; but so, too, is the daily clarion call from his family-led foundation. From funding youth sports and causes like the King Boston memorial to organizing service days in our neighborhood throughout the year, the Foundation has very quickly become a bright, vital, and precious star in our civic firmament. We’re thankful for the Martin family’s example.
• Boys and Girls Clubs of Dorchester. There’s no single organization that has been more important to the lives of more neighborhood people over the last half-century. Formerly known as the Marr Club, the BGCD has offered a fun, safe, and nurturing environment to Dot children and families since the 1970s. Thousands of kids each year enjoy after-school and summertime activities at the campuses on Deer Street, Dot Ave, and Columbia Point.
The club’s staff — some of whom have been working there since the doors opened— are committed to helping lift families out of poverty. We’d be a far poorer place in resources and spirit without them.
It’s easy to overlook a place that’s been so central to our neighborhood’s success for so long. But, this Thanksgiving we’ll give thanks for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Dorchester’s staff — and their board members and volunteers, especially Lee Kennedy, whose stewardship over the last decade has lifted the club’s capacity and helped to keep it affordable for all families to enjoy.
• We’re thankful, too, for the generosity of Don Rodman, who spent a small fortune last month to send hundreds of city kids to see “Hamilton” at the Opera House. Don, who grew up in Dorchester, serves on the board of the BGCD and so, of course, many of the club’s members were treated to free seats at this spectacular show. He has been a stalwart and incredibly generous supporter of Boston’s less-privileged kids for decades. His quiet, sustained generosity has made a huge difference.
• This season, we’re grateful to the scores of people who’ve stepped up to fix the Vietnam Memorial on Morrissey Boulevard, which was struck by an unknown vandal last month. Over $25,000 has been raised to help pay for the repairs, much of it in the form of small donations from Dorchester folks— or natives who’ve moved on to other places, but recall the sacrifices of the 80 Dorchester men who were killed overseas and the hundreds more who survived the war. We’re thankful to Dorchester’s Zinck family members for their dignified and resolute care-taking of this memorial, which is a moving representation of this neighborhood’s loss— and of our continued admiration for the sacrifice of those who put it all on the line.
There are so many more we could name. This week, as we settle down to a meal or a conversation with loved ones, let’s think about those men and women and children in our hometown who lead by example, make us look good, and, in doing so, inspire us to strive to be our best selves.