Archive - Nov 22, 2007

The Story of the First Thanksgiving

We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing;
He chastens and hastens His will to make known.

Most of us heard stories of Squanto and the first thanksgiving. Some of us may remember the five kernels of corn that the pilgrims set beside each plate as a reminder of their blessing,

The first kernel reminded them of the autumn beauty.
The second kernel reminded them of their love for each other.
The third kernel reminded them of their family's love.
The fourth kernel reminded them of their friends...especially their Indian brothers.
The fifth kernel reminded them of their freedom.

These are the stories of the First Thanksgiving, but each one of us has Thanksgiving firsts as well. I grew up in Massachusetts and my ancestors, while I don’t know of any that came across on the Mayflower, I know that quite a few came on boats that followed soon after. The stories of Thanksgiving are in my DNA.

We never had a lot of money growing up, but Thanksgiving was always a special day. We would have a big feast, and my memories of the day are all very pleasant. Sure, there may have been family conflict, but it was never apparent to me, or if it was, it was the simple fighting between siblings that went on every day.

It wasn’t until years later that I visited other families at Thanksgiving, where the day seemed to be more about parades and football games and the kick off of the holiday shopping season, that I discovered the conflict that many families experience on this and the following days.

Years later, as I went through a painful divorce, I discovered what it means to be adopted as a stray during Thanksgiving by a loving couple from church that wanted to make sure I had a place to go on such an important day, when my family was imploding.

The next year, as I picked up the pieces, I had another first, the first and only Thanksgiving Dinner I ever ate in a restaurant. The mother of my new love had just died two and a half months earlier. For my new love, like for myself, Thanksgiving dinner was a sacred time of gathering with family, and with the cornerstone of her family gatherings now missing, and before she had transformed to become the new cornerstone, we were both drifting and a Thanksgiving Dinner at a restaurant seemed like the best we could manage.

The days have come and gone. Every Thanksgiving Day ends up being a bit different. This year Mairead brought home her best friend from school to join us for dinner. Yet with each Thanksgiving being different; a first Thanksgiving in its own right, the five kernels remain and I look out the window at the beauty of God’s creation, I think about the bounty we have received from God, even though it sometimes feels like we’ve been getting by on five kernels of corn and the next harvest seems uncertain, I think about the family, friends, neighbors, and strangers that have helped us on our way, and I savor the freedom we have to enjoy all of this.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Now thank we all our God, with heart and hands and voices,
Who wondrous things has done, in Whom this world rejoices;
Who from our mothers’ arms has blessed us on our way
With countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.

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