October 17, 2022, Mayor's Column

For me, this week in the Village was one of the most joyous as we celebrated the 80th anniversary of our venerable Adult School and the gala fundraiser for the Picture House to support the operation of our iconic theater. Both of these events made me realize when I talked about Bronxville in last week’s column being the ideal community for its proximity to virtually all of life‘s needs, I realized I forgot the most important ingredient to make this a very special home, the character of its residents.

On Tuesday night, a band of some of truly stalwart citizens of the Village celebrated our Adult School as they have maintained and revitalized it despite 2½ years of incredible obstacles due to the unprecedented Covid pandemic. The folks at the helm and those who love and have served the institution are nothing short of heroic.

The same was true Friday night when the sell out crowd of Villagers went to support the reinvention and reincarnation of our storied movie theater. Without the cadre of citizens who love not only the arts but the preservation of our downtown, I truly believe we would have joined the many other communities across the country who no longer have a local theater.

As I reflected at week’s end, the word that came to mind was gratitude. I had read the definition of gratitude as something that happens when kindness exceeds expectations and I thought that definition was so apt to describe so many efforts in our Village.

I can think of countless other examples where our friends and neighbors displayed such a characteristic. I think back to the over $700,000 that was raised in under a month by a group of citizens who saw the need to keep our downtown merchants in business and in good financial health during the pandemic.  This group, coupled with the literally hundreds of residents who purchased gift cards, not only to use at Village shops but also donated them to all of our first responders. With no exaggeration, they saved the vibrancy of our downtown. The outpouring of generosity was awe-inspiring.

In every corner of the Village, our residents are displaying their gratitude for living here with their volunteer time and generosity to enhance our home for everyone.

A dedicated core of people have transformed an overgrown, rather sad expanse of land into a lovely oasis near Siwanoy that even rivals the beautiful park parallel to it which was again beautifully reimagined by a volunteer corps of citizens.

At our recent food collection drive for Feed Westchester, the donations far exceeded anything we imagined.  A vignette from this endeavor defines the world gratitude. A young man in his 20s, who I recognized from the Village but didn’t know, walked by and asked me what I was collecting. I explained it was food to be distributed throughout Westchester County because, hard to believe, one in six of our county neighbors are food insufficient. He listened carefully, expressed surprise and then wished me good luck. About a half hour later,  the same young man came walking up from a different direction with a bag filled to the brim from Acme with food and just handed it to me. Words cannot even do justice to such a gesture.

There is a wonderful essay by David Brooks that talks about this wonderful virtue of gratitude and the following is a paraphrasing of his most salient points.

He said some people are grateful transactionally; others seem thankful practically all of the time and take nothing for granted, witness the young man who stopped by our food drive.  They take joy even at another’s good performance or for just a sunny day. Brooks also believes that gratitude is a form of social glue as a debt of gratitude is always repaid forward, putting people in circles of affection founded upon loyalty and service. I think in the Village it is quite easy to be grateful for all the institutions such as our schools, churches and community organizations that our predecessors bequeathed us. They seem to invest far more into us and our quality of life then we could give back, almost creating a surplus of goodness in our daily life.

As yet another example, the Reformed Church is holding its annual Clothes Closet Sale on October 29th where gently used clothing donated by residents, (the bin is just across the street from the fire house and available at all times for donations),  are offered for sale at nominal cost. In a poignant story that exemplifies the definition of gratitude, one of the organizers told me of the year when a beautiful wedding dress from Kleinfeld‘s was donated to the closet. Knowing its popularity, the Clothes Closet staffers decided to have a raffle with one lucky winner. One ticket holder so wanted the dress that she stayed around for the entire sale and when she actually won the dress, the reaction was one for the memory books. This goes back to that beautiful definition that gratitude happens when kindness exceeds expectations. 

I see it in my job on a daily basis as most everyone seems to come to Village Hall, even if not in good spirits, but nonetheless conduct themselves with a level of civil discourse and patience that is most appreciated.

In another telling vignette, the wonderful folks at NewYork Presbyterian-Westchester Hospital administered five hours of free flu shots at Village Hall just this past Friday and the main comment from the hospital staff was how grateful people were for the shot and for the kindness of the nurses.

GK Chesterton wrote that, “Thanks are the highest form of thought and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.”

My wish is that we, as a community, never lose our “wonder.”