On this day of Thanks, it is easy to get caught up in the usual fare, like the secret to preparing the best turkey, inevitable family politics and, of course, the official beginning of the frenzied holiday shopping season.
With all that potential distraction waiting in the wings, it can be a challenge to remember that Thanksgiving is a hard time for the less fortunate.
As a result, for a growing number of Americans, Thanksgiving has instead become a day of volunteerism. This includes reggaetón superstar Don Omar, who has joined a countless number of those eager to provide a hot meal and a smile to those in need of a little holiday cheer.
On the heels of releasing his new album “Meet the Orphans,” Don Omar
visited the Isabella Geriatric Center in the Washington Heights area of Manhattan.
There, the self-proclaimed "King of Reggaetón" decorated tables, served a Thanksgiving meal and held an impromptu jam session with the residents.
“Giving to the less fortunate, especially in these difficult times, is very important,” said Don Omar.
“People often forget about the elderly,” he added. “They tend to be left in homes in most cases without their family around them.”
It was an afternoon of smiles, laughs, and a few happy tears as both residents and staff danced and played instruments with the reggaetonero.
Don worked the room, encouraging those who were able, to get out of their chairs and move to the rhythm. Others played maracas and drums while Don Omar answered with a tambourine.
“This was huge for them. I mean --you have to understand-- they are at a point in life where they there isn’t too much excitement. So this was great” said Betty Lehman, Director of Marketing and Communications for Isabella Geriatric Center.
After the music ended, Don Omar went around the room shaking hands and sharing both jokes and messages of encouragement to the residents, many of whom were Spanish-speaking. He also signed every autograph and posed for every photo that was asked of him.
“It's important to be able to give something simple --such as a smile-- especially to those that were here before us.” he said.
But what is Don Omar’s favorite thing about Thanksgiving?
“Arroz con gandules and potato salad,” he answered. “I like a traditional Puerto Rican meal.”
As the afternoon came to a close and the artist made his way toward the exit there were roughly 15 staff members waiting for their turn to embrace the star.
It was a reminder of the true meaning of Thanksgiving -- being grateful of one’s fortune and giving to others.
Now there was only one question on everyone’s mind: When do we eat?
Isabella Geriatric Center has served Washington Heights since 1875. Isabella is a non-profit, non-sectarian organization that provides an array of services at affordable rates including child daycare, long and short term rehabilitation,free certified Nurses aide training and fitness programs for people of all ages. For more information click here.
Erica Y. Lopez is a writer based in New York City. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow her on Twitter: @LaloSays