'Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it -- every, every minute?" asked Thornton Wilder in his classic play "Our Town." His answer was no: We're too busy living life to fully savor its wonder.
But maybe on Thanksgiving we should give it a try.
Beyond the Macy's parade, the football on television and the turkey feast, Thanksgiving is an opportunity for Americans to gather friends and family close and reflect on things that make life worth living.
This year on Long Island, many of us are living with a new sense of vulnerability in the aftermath of superstorm Sandy. We have learned that in a heartbeat our lives can be harshly upended. It's a feeling the Pilgrims of Plymouth Colony must have known all too well in 1621, when, so the story goes, they held the first Thanksgiving as a way to show their gratitude to the Wampanoags, who had helped them survive the brutal rigors of the New World.
Many Long Islanders in this post-Sandy universe now know that we, too, owe much to the kindness of the strangers around us -- the people who swooped in and did things large and small to make us less cold, less hungry and less isolated. We learned that we are all pilgrims in this world sometimes, dependent on the mercy of others.
So what better time than now to honor those who helped us survive the most devastating storm in our history with their amazing kindness and selflessness?
On Long Island, we have so many people to thank:
The first-responders who risked electrocution and drowning to save the elderly and small children trapped by Sandy's fast-moving tidal surge.
The people who went door to door in Long Beach to find out what residents needed and then brought them warmer clothes and arranged rides to doctor appointments.
The linemen from states such as Alabama and Texas who worked punishing hours and slept in their trucks to bring back our lights and heat.
The people of New Orleans who held two concerts to raise money for post-Sandy relief and recovery efforts.
Workers from the Federal Emergency Management Agency who reached out to make sure that those of us left homeless by the storm had sufficient food and shelter to weather the crisis. FEMA has so far approved more than $208 million in federal emergency aid to 30,000 Long Island households.
The list of heroes is endless. From random acts of kindness among neighbors, to relief campaigns organized on Facebook and Twitter, to the people who staffed Red Cross food distribution centers in Seaford, Hewlett and Lido Beach, most of us have someone to thank today.
The need for assistance will continue for many. As the shock of this superstorm begins to fade, we shouldn't forget that.
But today, let us simply note that while we're more vulnerable than perhaps we thought, we're not alone. And for that we're thankful.