Today is Thanksgiving. This year we have endured major challenges and trauma in the months leading up to Thanksgiving. The situation is entirely different from the first Thanksgiving celebrated by the Pilgrims but the suffering is not. They had come to a new land.
Imagine coming to a place without housing, without any conveniences, to a land they knew nothing about and starting from ground zero to build a life. Wikipedia gives us a bare-bones description below. Let your imagination fill in the blanks.
The First Thanksgiving
The event that Americans commonly call the “First Thanksgiving” was celebrated by the Pilgrims after their first harvest in the New World in October 1621. This feast lasted three days, and—as recounted by attendee Edward Winslow— was attended by 90 Native Americans and 53 Pilgrims. The New England colonists were accustomed to regularly celebrating “thanksgivings,” days of prayer thanking God for blessings such as a military victory or the end of a drought.
We don’t have a lot of details in this account but we have some ideas of what it might have been like.
If you’ve ever moved from one house to another in a new town or city, you know how difficult it is. You have to pack all that stuff and somehow get it moved to the new place. Then you have to put it all away. After that, you have to learn your way around the new town, meet new people, probably start a new job. Perhaps you have children you have to get into school and get them settled. Phew! Big job.
Now imagine packing up a few belongings, sailing for 66 days and landing in a place you know nothing about and that had absolutely no development. They landed in New England in November and, if you’ve ever been to New England in winter, you know it can be very cold. Bitter cold.
They somehow made it through the winter, planted crops in the Spring, and in the Fall, had a harvest. In the meantime, they had to construct some sort of dwelling, learn from the natives, tend to their children, and struggle for food. There were no convenience stores, no markets, no clothing stores — nothing. They made friends with natives who helped them learn their way around.
Imagine having to do that.
When they harvested the crops, they gave thanks. They invited the Native Americans and they celebrated. They forgot the suffering long enough to show gratitude for survival, for food, for life.
Thanksgiving in 2020
This has been a different year than we have ever experienced in our lifetimes in this country. Well, yes. We get sick. Accidents happen. Work is sometimes a challenge. Children sometimes cause us concern. But we have not known suffering like those first people landing at Plymouth Rock.
But this year, many have known suffering. Many have had their families wiped out by COVID-19. The health-care workers have worked endlessly trying to care for all those who succumbed to the illness. Thousands have lost jobs and have no food for their children. Many live in fear at home.
Pandemic is a word that meant nothing to us but now we are beginning to understand how vulnerable we are.
Those of us who have not been affected have so much to be grateful for and today is the day to express that gratitude.
What are you grateful for?
Take some time today to give this some serious thought. Some of you are thinking that you have nothing to be grateful for— that you have lost too much, suffered too long, are still in pain. Try to look beyond that if you can.
Get a sheet of paper and a pen or pencil. Or open a new page on your computer. Write one sentence:
I am grateful for …
I don’t know what you will write. Let it come to you.
Are you grateful for life? Grateful that you have not had COVID or that you survived it?
Perhaps you can be grateful that you have a new start like the Pilgrims had. They came through the worst of the suffering and started fresh, in a new country with new opportunities.
Maybe it’s time to think of the gratitude you have for the friends who helped you through or are still helping like the Native Americans helped the Pilgrims.
If nothing comes to you, simply sit with the thought: