Appropriate Lessons for 2020
Thanksgiving, the time to give thanks. But this year … why? There are so many reasons to get our grump on, indulge our inner curmudgeon and become a Thanksgiving Scrooge!
We may have to dig a little deeper to be thankful this year. I will certainly miss the large, multi-generational gatherings and the somewhat frantic pace of the days prior in preparation for the Thanksgiving feast. I will miss seeing full, unmasked faces, some smiling and some stressed out, in the markets doing mental division (how many pounds -how many people) over the turkeys.
I do know there are still so many reasons to be grateful, and what I am grateful for this year will be very different than last year. What I am most grateful for this year is the strength and determination of people. A very general statement, but the strength and determination is everywhere you look.
Usually, gratitude is based on our own personal history. But this year, if you look back on the history of Thanksgiving, the gratitude that was expressed seems so much more relatable.
In 1621, 50 Colonists were joined by over 100 members of the Wampanoag tribe for a three-day feast, what many history books refer to as the first Thanksgiving. What were they thankful for?
Only about half of the Colonists who had set sail on the Mayflower, survived the trip and were able to share the waterfowl and venison during this feast. As for the Wampanoag tribe, in the four years prior to this festivity, the Wampanoag population was decimated by Weil’s syndrome.
A letter written in December 1621 by Edward Winslow, who sailed on the Mayflower in 1620 and was an original colonist in Plymouth, offers the only eyewitness account of the very first Thanksgiving.
“Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together, after we had gathered the fruits of our labors; they four in one day killed as much fowl, as with a little help beside, served the Company almost a week, at which time amongst other Recreations, we exercised our Arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and amongst the rest their greatest king Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five Deer, which they brought to the Plantation and bestowed on our Governor, and upon the Captain and others. And although it be not always so plentiful, as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want, that we often wish you partakers of our plenty.”
–Edward Winslow, December, 1621
While the members of the Wampanoag tribe and the Colonists were very different, they both shared in the daily expression of gratitude. Together at this feast, they shared in the bounty despite great loss and many challenges.
The next stop in history is Washington D.C. on Saturday, October 3, 1863.
“I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving …“
– Abraham Lincoln’s Proclamation of Thanksgiving
President Lincoln also states, “The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies.” America was at Civil War, a war that split families and a nation, when our 16th President spoke these words. With recent victories in Gettysburg and Vicksburg, President Lincoln saw hope and each victory as a step forward in uniting our divided country.
Edward Winslow, the other Colonists, and Wampanoag tribe teach us in that even in the face of mortal peril, we are survivors, we are strong, we persevere. President Lincoln teaches us about inner determination and strength and how to turn adversity into a learning opportunity. The history of Thanksgiving offers us such appropriate lessons for 2020.
Have a thoughtful and grateful Thanksgiving.