Thanksgiving

 

Thanksgiving

"As someone who moved to the US from another country, this nuance of our culture is compelling." (Malcolm du Plessis)

There is increasing complexity, danger and fear in the world in which we live. However, there is something in the American Holiday of Thanksgiving that we need to embrace in this time in history.

America's first such celebration - three days of thanking God and feasting on venison, wild-grape wine, lobster, clams, corn, strawberries and more - came in the autumn of 1621, not after a year of splendid living, but after a winter of horror.

It's believed that 101 settlers landed at Plymouth Rock the year before, but little more than half that number were now alive. Wilderness and disease had very nearly defeated those still hanging on. They were frightened and demoralized and might well have perished if not for what some historians see as the genius of their governor, William Bradford. He seems to have grasped that, in times of serious difficulty, people need to concentrate on the good in their lives. They need to express gratitude. Through that exercise - by seeing what is glorious around them despite all their suffering - they find strength. Hope is restored. Spirits are raised. And that is what happened to the pilgrims who survived and carved for themselves a remarkable niche in the history of the world.

Abraham Lincoln is another leader who must have understood the restorative power of thankfulness. It was during the middle of the bloody Civil War, after all, that he established Thanksgiving as a regular national holiday. He did not dwell on the nation's pain in his proclamation. Instead, he said the nation was blessed with extraordinary bounty and urged citizens to offer thanks to God.