Thanksgiving: A time to reflect
While everything might not be perfect and for some life maybe a real struggle at times, Thanksgiving gives us a chance to reflect on thethings that make us truly grateful. It is a tradition that has its roots goingback to the Pilgrims who came here in the early 17th Century looking for areligious freedom they could not find in England at the time.
For many of us it means a time to gather together andperhaps eat too much turkey dinner, hopefully surrounded by family and friends.Whatever your tradition, take some time to look back over the past year andremember what you have that makes you glad: For most that list would includethings like family and friends, a satisfying job, good health, enough to eatand a warm place to live. If the list is only partially complete, be thankfulfor what you do have and strive to change the things you don’t. In the case ofthe Pilgrims, they asked God for help in the new land and their prayers wereanswered.
As we learn in school, the Pilgrims came to the New Worldlooking for religious freedom – their very name, or at least what we call themtoday, means someone who is on a religious journey or pilgrimage. They hadearlier tried for that freedom by traveling from England to the Netherlands,but felt the New World would offer more of what they sought. They made acontract with the London Company, which was looking for settlers in the NewWorld. In exchange for their passage across the Atlantic Ocean they would repaythe company in goods from the new land.
One hundred Pilgrims crowded on to the tiny Mayflower tomake the perilous journey to seek that religious freedom in an unfamiliarplace. Their journey was to take them to Virginia, but the ship was blown offcourse and landed 100 miles north in Cape Cod in November of 1620. They settledjust west of Cape Cod in what is now Plymouth, Mass. as it was too late in theyear to try and travel to Virginia, where the London Company owned land. Withsnow already falling they faced more struggles, including starvation and harshconditions. They received help from the native people who taught them how to dothings like rake clams and how to plant corn. The next summer they were worriedthat their crops would not survive because of a lack of rain. They set aside aday to pray to God to bring the moisture the crops needed. They’re prayers wereanswered, the crops survived and the settlers had an abundance.
The Colonists set aside a day of thanksgiving and invitedtheir new friends to share in the good fortune and about 90 Indians joined themin a dinner to give thanks for the good harvest. Historical records tell usthat first Thanksgiving dinner menu included wild turkey, but duck, geese,clams, lobsters, eels, cornbread, fruit and other foods.
So despite hardships and struggles that would make many ofour own problems seem small today, these pilgrims worked hard for what theybelieved in and formed a strong community – the venture lasted over 70 years.They were right to give thanks for the help they received from the people whowere already living here and for their successful first crops and for a placethey could practice their religion how they saw fit, without a governmenttelling them what they should and shouldn’t believe. That’s why we in theUnited States put aside the fourth Thursday each year in celebration – atradition all people of our country should be able to share in.