View From The Middle
Canarsie’s most recent Brotherhood Night meant something special. Not that the annual commemorative services in the past didn’t portray at least the general meaning that we should treat each other empathetically by just following the Golden Rule.
The latest observance was not unlike another memorial service two months after September 11th in 2001, held with sad solemnity because of a manmade catastrophe. The interdenominational event two weeks ago came only a short time after the natural disaster of Hurricane Sandy that also affected us deeply, physically and emotionally.
Both gave us a time to pause and think about the trauma we’d just been through and, yes, also an inclination that there are certainly many things for which we must be thankful.
We’ve held our Brotherhood Nights for 29 years now…always on the Monday just before Thanksgiving. The date, of course, gives us more reason to be able to take a close look, not necessarily at those unfortunate, negative incidents that brought us together, but also at the positivism they bestowed — and to be thankful.
The night of bonding has always been heralded as something special here. However, we didn’t always see it as a commemoration because of disasters or upsetting events in relation to the actions of our fellow man or, indeed, Mother Nature.
There were times within these three decades that the purpose was much simpler; perhaps just as deep, but nevertheless not as complex. We neighbors looked on the occasion as a short, refreshing pause in our lives where we could reflect on where we are in life…in relation to God and in relation to each other.
We didn’t (we don’t) necessarily have to take part in the event as a specifically religious gathering, regardless of the fact that it has always taken place in a house of worship. As a matter of fact, congregants did not even have to belong to any particular faith.
But it also gave us a chance to sit back and take stock of what we have and think about the trauma we’ve just been through. Some who attended were not affected by the recent storm to any great degree (although no one was left untouched) and some came to the service not just out of respect, but to say a prayer and ask for help in getting through their individual dilemmas. Either way, we were comforted by the “brotherhood” around us, knowing that, at the worst of times, we might at least depend on the moral support of our fellow man
All we had to do was to take heart in the purpose of the event: Brotherhood — the bond that makes us a civilized society; the connection we have with each other that, properly conducted, supports us in the search for that higher plane that tells us our purpose here is to live together happily and in peace.
Poet and author Sir Walter Scott said it best when he wrote: “The race of mankind would perish did they cease to aid each other — We cannot exist without mutual help.”
This has always been the basic intention of Canarsie’s Brotherhood Night, as it has become an annual harbinger of our sense of compassion. It stands to reason that we need these sensitive breaks in our lives, if not for a brief time of selfreflection but, perhaps, to seek support and comfort from a higher entity.