People from across the city gathered at Brooklyn Borough Hall on a recent Tuesday to participate in an act of service in support of their fellow community members.
The first annual National Day of Healing (NDH) brought together caring New Yorkers to send a message that will be its hallmark for years to come: “You Are Not Alone.” The hour-long event featured a moment of silence at noon, in which those present sent this silent message out to all who suffer emotional trauma during the holidays. Participants were joined by CUNY students at schools citywide and by people at their workplaces, all holding the same thought.
Founded by psychologist Jeffrey Gardere, an expert contributor on network and cable news, the NDH encourages outreach to those experiencing grief or estrangement at this time of year.
For them, the parties, festively decorated streets and media images of celebratory moments with family are painful reminders of trauma. Many people feel pressured to put on a smile or join in the festivities while recovering from the loss of loved one, a job or a place to live. A special PSA declaring, “You Are Not Alone” debuted at the event. It features Dr. Gardere and will air on WABC-TV over the holidays.
In his keynote speech, Gardere addressed the urgency of this effort.
“The National Day of Healing represents service that anyone can participate in,” he said. “If you are sad, isolated or hurt during the holidays, we are here to say that we stand as one, that we are here for one another. As simple as that seems, it makes a huge difference and we are going to do this every year.
“Some are in a state of panic and fear because of the things we see happening on the planet right now. Reach out to those who love you, to a supportive community. Our message is: ‘You Are Not Alone’ in your pain, in your suffering. We are here together as a community, as humanity, to support you.”
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams also offered stirring words of conviction at the NDH launch. “The power of healing is the power to give back in a real way of who we are,” said Adams. “If we continue to deposit into the social equity of life, we will be able to withdraw from this bank when we are in our time of need…Healing others is healing yourself.”
Crown Heights Youth Collective founder Richard Green saluted Frances Davis, founder of Mothers of All Children. Davis, who lost three sons to gun violence, was among those gathered. He believes the annual observance is sorely needed. “It couldn’t be a more fitting time for people who have lost young ones in our communities,” Green said. “And we’re just hearing that the City of Los Angeles school system is on lockdown because of a threat… We have to spread love. That’s our greatest healing force.”
Chika Onyejiukwa, president of Hunter College Undergraduate Student Government, spoke of the current unrest among students nationwide. “The feelings of anger, dissatisfaction and resentment for the system are proof enough that students are suffering,” she said. “We remember our peers who may feel abandoned or forgotten, who may be victims of violence on campus or at home. This is a first step towards healing and wholeness and letting students know that they aren’t alone.”
CUNY students, themselves, will get to play a service role this holiday season. It was announced that accountant Salvatore Finocchiaro arranged for a huge donation of toys for children in need, which students will distribute at a campus in each of the five boroughs. Mr. Finocchiaro, who was in attendance, also facilitated a donation of delicious food enjoyed by all. Park Slope-based restaurant Pino’s Pizzeria graciously provided a generous buffet of lasagna, baked ziti and Mediterranean salad for the occasion.
NDH Co-Chairs Jonathan Mannion and Tamir Z. Brown were among others who contributed spirited remarks and several of the executive committee members were in attendance. Special thanks went out to WABC-TV, Common Wealth Toys, Butch Robinson, Dr. Timothy Houlihan, Karen Ford and Michelle Crutchfield, among others.