America’s first Thanksgiving is a story of faith, freedom and service to humanity. The Pilgrims left England and sailed across the Atlantic in search of a place to freely worship God. They set out with only their faith in God and what little they could carry on the Mayflower. Those who made it to the new land had to survive the bitter winter and starvation. Yet, they did not relinquish their faith and hope. Before anything else, they build their church as the center of their community. Despite their hunger, they refused to touch their seed grains. Their eyes always looked to God and to the future.
Winter thawed into spring. And the Massasoit Indians brought blessings to the emaciated settlers. Despite cultural, lingual, and religious differences, in a profound act that shows the best of humanity, the tribe shared its own store of corn seeds and gave the Pilgrims agricultural and hunting expertise. With the aid of their Native Americans brethren, the Pilgrims carved out a livelihood.
After the bountiful harvest that autumn, The Pilgrims hosted a thanksgiving feast to give thanks to God and to their Massasoit brothers and sisters. In his account of this event in 1621, Edward Winslow wrote, “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.”
Thanksgiving is a chance to acknowledge this remarkable moment in America’s history as families sit around the table – a snapshot of God’s children giving thanks to Him, to the beautiful earth and its bounty, and to each other, each unique and precious member of His family.
America has welcomed pioneers from all over the world, preceding and following the Pilgrims, each seeking for a chance to freely live with and worship God. Their journeys have woven a narrative that has God’s hand intimately involved in America’s history. This reliance on divine providence has been a guiding light during the most trying times in America’s history, and has steered her course towards the dream of becoming a model nation that protects the “inalienable rights” of every person “endowed by our Creator”. Remembering this, Happy Thanksgiving.