The Pilgrims’ first winter after arriving at Plymouth was a tragic one – about half of the original 102 adventurers died from exposure, scurvy and outbreaks of contagious disease. When spring came, the survivors, weakened by illness and malnutrition, experienced an astonishing miracle: a visit from an Abenaki Indian who greeted them in English. Several days later, he returned with Squanto, an English speaking Native American, who taught the Pilgrims how to cultivate corn, extract sap from maple trees, catch fish in the rivers and avoid poisonous plants.
In November, 1621, after their first successful corn harvest, the Pilgrims and their Native American allies celebrated a three day festival together. Many consider this festival as the origin of our modern day Thanksgiving holiday.
But this story is about more than the beginning of an annual holiday.
- It is about giving. When Squanto discovered strangers in need, he met those needs. Squanto’s example should inspire us to likewise help the needy people we encounter.
- It is about resilience. In spite of losing half of their number that first winter, the Pilgrims persevered. They learned the ways of the new land, adapted to those ways and began to rebound. When the bottom drops out from our own lives, we need to remember those Pilgrims. We CAN bounce back.
- It is about miracles. Governor William Bradford declared that Squanto was “a special instrument sent by God for their good.” I like to think of it as a miracle. Could you use an occasional miracle? I know I could.
- It is about thanksgiving. In spite of their hardships, the Pilgrims found reasons to be thankful. We would do well to seek reasons for thankfulness instead of dwelling on our disappointments.
If we can develop such a thankful spirit, our lives and the lives we encounter will be better for it.
I wish each of you a great Thanksgiving!