Thursday, November 26, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving

Jennie Augusta Brownscome. The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth, 1914. Pilgrim Hall Museum, Plymouth, Massachusetts

The Pilgrims made seven times more graves than huts. No Americans have been more impoverished than these who, nevertheless, set aside a day of thanksgiving. -H.U. Westermayer

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 fruit 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, among other recreations, we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and among 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 upon 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, A Journal of the Pilgrims at Plymouth, 1621.

More than 200 years after that first thanksgiving celebration, President Abraham Lincoln declared the final Thursday in November as a national day of thanksgiving. Congress finally made Thanksgiving Day an official national holiday in 1941.

Most people living today cannot really imagine what life was like for the Pilgrims. With their own hands, they made tools and built a nation. Their food crops weren't grown for bragging rights or as a hobby; their crops determined if they would starve or live through the winter. They were truly thankful when the rains came, when the hot days made the corn stalks climb. They thanked God for a bountiful crop of acorns and other nuts, which fed the game that fed them. They gave thanks that their children had lived to be a year old, that their hands were able to hold the ax and the plow. The pilgrims were thankful for neighbors who would help them, sharing seeds and knowledge of the land, without which they could not have survived.

Thanksgiving doesn't have much importance anymore in our culture. It is a day to eat too much and fall asleep later watching football. It serves as a launching point for the Christmas season, with Black Friday the next day and the coffee table piled with ads for 5:00 AM (or earlier) shopping. This year, many places are open Thanksgiving Day.

Some decorate their homes and businesses for Christmas after Halloween, just skipping Thanksgiving completely. Please, just for today, can be take a little time to be thankful? A gentle reminder:

*while you're enjoying your comfortable home, 80% of the world live in substandard housing.
*while you're reading your Bible or other book, 67% of the people can't read.
*while you're stuffed from your dinner, 50% of the world is malnourished and 1% is starving.
*while you're cleaning up after dinner, 33% of people don't have safe drinking water.
*when you go to the bathroom, 39% of people don't have improved sanitation.
*while you're comfortably watching television, 24% of people have no electricity.

God has blessed our nation, for in its beginning, they didn't forget Him.

To the end that my glory may sing praise to thee, and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks unto thee for ever.
–Psalms 30.12