This is an excerpt from reporter Scott Johnson's blog, which focuses on the effects of violence and trauma on the community. Go to www.oaklandeffect.com for updates on his reporting.

Thanksgiving is a family occasion. It's a time to enjoy being together, but it also reminds us of families that can't be together, whether because of absence to work or war. But also those families that have been broken by divorce, domestic violence, estrangement or people who have lost their loved ones. Thanksgiving can be a time of joy, or it can be a painful reminder of families that are not getting together this year, or any year for that matter.

This can be especially hard in communities that have themselves been broken over time, whether by violence, drugs and poverty, or by the steady and continuing neglect of their most vulnerable members. And yet it is precisely in these communities where we often find people with great reserves of gratitude. I have always been struck in my reporting, both here and overseas, by the resilience of disadvantaged communities and people who have been struck by hardships that might sink the well-to-do, the privileged.

On a positive note, meeting the challenge to make Thanksgiving work creates opportunities and incentives to breach an estrangement, or to bury a hatchet with an ex-spouse or a frayed relationship with an old friend or family member. It's an opportunity to re-examine our lives, our priorities and our sense of gratitude.

For those who are enjoying this Thanksgiving weekend with family, that is something to be truly thankful for. And for those that can't, it reminds us of the opportunities we all have to look around and find ways to reach out to those who are alone, who may have lost what is dearest to them, and find a sense of shared gratitude.

Contact Scott Johnson at 510-208-6429 or scjohnson@bayareanewsgroup.com.