by Dr. Randy Tompkins

“Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His faithful love endures forever.” 1 Chronicles 16:34

In 1600, a group of approximately 100 people arrived in the New Land from England and establish the Plymouth Colony. Sometime in the fall of 1621, a celebration was held with the remaining 50 colonists (22 men, 4 married women (78% of the women had died), and more than 25 children and teenagers) and a group of Indians. This information was documented in a letter written by Edward Winslow, one of the survivors of that fateful first winter in the New Land. The English were celebrating their first successful harvest by shouting, enjoying themselves and firing of guns. A group of Indians heard the commotion and investigated. The Indians were soon invited to enjoy the feast, and their contribution was more meat (no turkeys) and other foods. There were more Indians in attendance than English.

Winslow’s letter made its way back to England and, in 1841, became the basis for a book by Alexander Young entitled Chronicles of the Pilgrim Fathers. William Bradford, Plymouth’s governor in 1621, wrote, 20 years later, briefly of the event in Of Plymouth Plantation, a history of the colony. Winslow’s letter was confiscated by the British military and resurfaced in the United States in 1850. Magazine editor, Sarah Josepha Halle, used the letter to begin a campaign to make Thanksgiving a national holiday. In 1863 Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the final Thursday in November as the national Thanksgiving holiday.

It is certainly true the colonists used that first celebration as a way to be thankful for making it through that first horrible year and for being able to bring to the table a meager amount of food. They were probably also thankful the Indians were not hostile, but hospitable. There were more Indians than English and the bounty of the feast was provided by the Indians. I think it is highly important to reflect that first celebration lasted for three days. Maybe we need to rethink the time frame for our Thanksgiving!

Finally, we need to keep in mind that this holiday is a time to be thankful. But we must also remember the title of this holiday is a compound title: Thankful and giving. We tend to focus on the first part, and rightly so. But, we also tend to pay little or no attention to the second part of the title – giving. We tend to use the word giving when we say “give thanks”. But what do we actually give?  The survivors of Plymouth could not understand or communicate with those that just showed up at the meal, but they gave of their meager amounts of food to the strangers. In this difficult time in our country we truly need to be thankful. But we must step up our game in giving. Walk across the street and shake hands with a person you have never met, let someone go in front of you in a grocery store line, or send a note to someone when no note is expected.

In Christ’s Service,

Dr. Randy Tompkins 

Interim Senior Adult Minister
Calvary Baptist Church

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