Thanksgiving Lessons

27 11 2008

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! This week’s Question of the Week is:

What lessons can we learn from Thanksgiving history?

I’m thinking mainly about Pilgrims, but certainly this could include lessons from your own personal history as well!

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27 11 2008
Boyd Livingstone

I was fortunate enough to grow in the country and as such, my brothers and I had what seemed to us a vast wilderness domain to exercise dominion over. To what extent my childhood shaped my thinking (maybe it was the Louis L’Amour books that came later), I often felt that I would have vastly enjoyed landing on Plymouth Rock, skipping the starving time of course!

I’ve read many of the original documents of that time and I find myself with many rambling thoughts as I consider the Pilgrims. Unfortunately, many modern historians cast a sinister light upon their first days of exploration as they unbury some Indian corn and later steal more corn and even trinkets from shallow graves. Their unwillingness to consider the Pilgrims mindset reminds me somewhat of the modern evangelical that gets angry at Samson for losing his temper and smiting the Philistines hip and thigh.

The pilgrims did repay the Indians “to their satisfaction” for some of that corn they took 6 months later, yet if I were immediately removed from my computer and placed upon Corn Hill, I must confess that I am not sure that I could take it. Bradford remarked: “And so, like the men from Eshcol, carried with them of the fruits of the land and showed their brethren, of which, and their return, they were marvelously glad and their hearts encouraged….It is to be noted a special providence of God, and a great mercy to this poor people, that here they got seed to plant them corn next year, or else they might have starved.”

(Yet while I might not take corn, I did cash in my economic stimulus check and was grateful for the provision. Perhaps when I get my taxes done, I will find that I will amply replay my fellow taxpayers, hopefully “to their full satisfcation”!)

One cannot ignore the sense of community that was necessary and the great difficulty with which a thriving community was obtained. Late in 1621, the Fortune arrived with a few people and some beads, but nothing by way of provisions. The pilgrims were thankful for the additional strength but concerned about the added provisions necessary to feed the new comers. One of my favorite stories happened on Christmas. Evidently, the new comers were not Puritans, for they insisted when the Governor commanded that the folks head to work that it violated their conscience to work on christmas. “So the Governor told them that if they made it matter of conscience, he would spare them till they were better informed; so he led away the rest and left them. But when they came home at noon from their work, he found them in the street at play, openly; some pitching the bar, and some at stool ball and such like sports. So he went to them and took away their implements and told them that was against his conscience, that they should play and others work.”

Ahh..community! We like to speak of it, yet for the most part, our grooming within an independent and autonymous culture has not done much to hone our skills at working at community. Even those of us who know that we are commanded “as much as lies within you, live peaceably with all men” would probably struggle. What do you think? I assume that those reading and commenting here have similar views and aspirations. Do you think we could survive a month establishing a working community?!

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