Posted on 11/24/2022 Evan Swensen
Nearly all people have set aside time to give thanks. Sometimes it has been after a victorious battle or a great war, to celebrate relief from famine or other pestilences, to remember and pay tribute to helpful people and their kind acts, or to celebrate peace, freedom, or bounteous harvests.
The Pilgrims, credited for beginning Thanksgiving in America, suffered sickness, hardship, disappointment, and the loss of family, friends, and loved ones. In search of freedom and new opportunity, they endured the risks, rigors, and dangers of sailing uncharted waters and pioneering in an uncertain, hostile environment. Their first winter was fraught with plague, pestilence, malnutrition, and starvation. All but 47 of the 103 who landed at Plymouth died the first year and were buried in the soil of the new land.
Spring brought hope to the survivors. Friendly Indians showed them how to plant corn, fish, and continue with new hope and excitement for the future. With mixed emotions, they gave thanks to Deity for friends, meager supplies, and new homes; and with their prayers, they gave birth to an American tradition.
Life is plagued with risks, rigors, and dangers. We are sailing uncharted waters and trying to prevail in an uncertain and sometimes hostile environment. Hopes and dreams are buried in graves of friends and family. The pestilence of low moral standards and self-indulgence have inflicted irreversible malnutrition on many of our neighbors’ lives, and their spirits starved and died.
Life is a time of trying and testing. A time for growth. Growth that does not occur without pain. Our challenge is not to let the struggle leave us so wrapped up in our own feelings, we fail to count our many blessings. Too often, as we feel the prick of the thorn, we fail to give thanks for the flower’s fragrance. So, this Thanksgiving day, let us pause and reflect on our many blessings and make life a season of thanksgiving.
Perhaps one of the most important traditions associated with Thanksgiving has been lost to history.
We in America have been blessed so abundantly that we forget the humble circumstances surrounding the first Thanksgiving feast. Even the poorest of our circle of friends, family, and associates have more wealth than the Pilgrims could even dream of.
Those who gave thanks at Plymouth, by sharing a feast of gratitude, left us another part of their heritage. As they approached the harvest season, they would determine if they had had a bounteous year or a lean harvest. If the storehouse were full, they had a feast of thanksgiving. They had a fast if the larder contained less than what was adequate for winter. For them, it was either feast or fast.
This last year may have been a trying and testing time for you. You may have experienced growth by overcoming trials and testing. I trust that, that growth has not occurred without pain. The struggle may have left you so wrapped up in your feelings that you have failed to count your many blessings. As we look back at 2022 from the perspective of 12 months, let us pause and reflect on our many blessings in this season of thanksgiving.
I think we will find our harvest has been ample. Even if our circumstances are otherwise, let us celebrate this Thanksgiving with as much feast as we can muster. As we partake of the foods of the holiday and offer our prayers of appreciation, let us remember our real blessings. If all we had were water and a cracker to eat, we could not fast. We live in America, a land of freedom. Our home is Alaska, the Greatland, a land of opportunity, abundance, and beauty. The country of Denali and other natural towers to heaven, Yukon River and other waterways of beauty and bounty, Anchorage and other communities of friendship, and Alaska’s outdoors, where, as Robert Service wrote, “It’s the forest where silence has lease, it’s the beauty that fills me with wonder, it’s the stillness that fills me with peace.”