ThanksGiving, ThanksLiving

Now it begins.

Thanksgiving. Giving Thanks. Food, Family, Friends, Fun. Turkey, Traditions, Touchdowns, Travel. Tension?!

I remember a little of what I think I learned about the “First Thanksgiving” as a child. The Pilgrims came from England on a ship. “If April showers bring May flowers, what do May flowers bring? PILGRIMS – Bazooka Joe”.  The women pilgrims wore long, black dresses with white aprons and white bonnets. The Mayflower landed at Plymouth Rock in Massachusetts. They built wood houses and farmed and hunted for food. They left England to have religious freedom. They met the “Indians” who lived in the same area and the Pilgrims invited them over for a big feast of their first harvest. The first “potluck supper”, maybe? They served turkey and dressing, sliced red circles from canned cranberry jelly, green bean casserole and sweet potato pie. The Indians brought corn and showed them how to make popcorn. (I’m sure every teacher I’ve ever had is grimacing, shaking their heads, now).

Today is four days prior to Thanksgiving 2019. President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed Thanksgiving, the final Thursday each November, a national holiday in 1863 – right in the middle of our Civil War. The real, first “thanksgiving” harvest feast was in 1621. This year, 2019, marks the 398th year since the original feast was held between peoples who could not have had more different lives and histories. They came together to give thanks in a time and situation that was more difficult than we can imagine ourselves to be a part of.

The “thanksgiving feast” participants in 1621 could not have had more different lives and backgrounds, yet they came together where we have segregated ourselves today. Indigenous and Immigrant; light-skinned and dark-skinned; clothed in cloth and clothed in animal hide and fur; two completely different languages and methods of communications; different understandings, rituals and faith expressions of God.

These founders of our celebrated feast did not come together to argue. They did not come to prove their superiority over the other. They did not come together to convert, judge or condemn the other’s faith or religion. And politics and governments were not the stuffing or main dish served.

They wanted to help each other. They listened so they could learn from each other. They shared the best from their harvests and hunts. They gave their best. They gave thanks. They worked hard to live in a time and place where disease, not ease ruled the day. They lived their best. They lived thanks.

True ThanksGiving leads to ThanksLiving.

399 years ago, the pilgrims purchased a one-way ticket on the Mayflower. Their final destination was Freedom. The price was horrific.  Difficult doesn’t even begin to describe their challenges. Start in a time period when the average life expectancy was forty years. Add to that a rough sea voyage, scurvy, dehydration and starvation, and you’ll understand how 50 of the original 102 passengers died in their first year of their new world. Their difficulties didn’t diminish their giving thanks. I think it encouraged their thanksgiving.

Nearly five years ago, I was given a one-way ticket on a surprise voyage. My ship is named Cholangiocarcinoma. There have been and will continue to be rough seas before me that are difficult and challenging, to say the least. In the midst of this journey, on an uncharted course, I have learned like the “pilgrims” to give thanks in the most difficult situations. The water in front of my ship looks choppy, and big waves can come suddenly when storms arise, but I keep looking forward – giving and living Thanks; looking forward to Freedom’s shore. I’ve been told it is the Land where Milk and Honey flow, but I’m secretly hoping it’s full of dressing and gravy and green bean casserole, and where all the “wild turkeys” I’ve known and loved will meet me there at the Biggest feast.

But until then, Give thanks and Live thanks.  I am full of thanks for you.

Susan Randolph Braden