Are you giving thanks this Autumn?

In September 1620, a small ship called the ‘Mayflower’ left Plymouth, England, to carry over a hundred passengers to the New World. These folk were made up of persecuted Christians seeking freedom to practice their faith along with others who were seeking prosperity and land ownership. After a treacherous and uncomfortable crossing that lasted sixty six days, they dropped anchor near the tip of Cape Cod, far north of their intended destination at the mouth of the Hudson River. One month later, the Mayflower crossed Massachusetts Bay where the Pilgrims, as they are now commonly known, began the work of establishing a village at Plymouth.

Throughout that first brutal winter, most of the colonists remained on board the ship and suffered from exposure, scurvy and outbreaks of contagious disease. Only half of the Mayflower’s original passengers and crew lived to see their first New England spring.

When they were close to death, they were visited by an Abenaki Indian who greeted them in English. Several days later, he returned with another Native American named Squanto, a member of the Pawtuxet tribe who had been kidnapped by an English sea captain and sold into slavery. Seeing the desperate plight of the Pilgrims, Squanto shared food with the starving Pilgrims and taught them how to harvest pumpkin, grow corn, extract sap from maple trees, catch fish in the rivers and avoid poisonous plants. He also helped them forge an alliance with the Wampanoag, a local tribe, which lasted for fifty years and tragically remains one of the sole examples of harmony between European colonists and Native Americans.

On the fourth Thursday of November, which this year is 23rd, this act of kindness will be celebrated as Thanksgiving. I am very blessed to have a dear friend who invites us to celebrate this lovely occasion in a very special way. As we sit round the dining room table, everyone is invited to say something they appreciate about the person on their left. Then a delicious meal of turkey cooked in champagne, succotash: a Native American dish made from peas and onions; sweet potato, and pumpkin pie is served. Afterwards, entertainment is shared; perhaps a song or two or some appropriate poetry.

Thanksgiving is a wonderful occasion and has now become one of the highlights of my year. With love at the forefront of the celebrations, let Thanksgiving, wherever we live and whatever our history, be a salutary reminder to all of us to be kind to those in need and generous with our time for those who need to learn new skills.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Love Laurelle