The first Thanksgiving was something of a miracle. We see pictures of tables lined with food and imagine an incredible feast. We often forget the journey and the hardships that the Pilgrims endured to celebrate the first Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving took place in 1621 after a year of incredible hardships experienced by the pilgrims. The Pilgrims left England in search of religious freedom and were willing to make many personal sacrifices to experience freedom. The freedom that they desired was going to come at an extremely high price.
Before the Pilgrims left England, they were given published guides that gave basic traveling advice. The first instruction was to make a will because most people died during such a trip. The goal of the Pilgrims was to reach Virginia, where other English settlers had gone over a decade before. The Mayflower left England in 1620 and soon encountered strong storms, which blew the ship well off course. Instead of reaching Virginia and settling there, the Mayflower landed in Massachusetts. As they located an appropriate location to build, winter was swiftly approaching.
The Pilgrims began building homes in the new settlement they named Plymouth. Winter set in upon them and there was little chance to build appropriate shelter. The storms were severe and with only rudimentary shelter, there was little protection from the elements. The food supplies that were sparse to begin with ran out. Not only did the Pilgrims have to endure harsh winter weather but also the prospect of starvation.
After winter set in, so did the sickness. In just a few weeks, almost all of the Pilgrims were severely ill. Within three months of settling Plymouth half of their group had died. The fear of attack from Indians caused the Pilgrims to dig their graves at night. The Pilgrims dug seven times more graves than they were able to build homes that winter.
As Spring arrived, so did assistance from the Indians. The Indians taught the settlers to plant corn but their first crops were less than spectacular. However, the Pilgrims made a choice that we might find unusual. After a year of disappointments, diseases and death, the choice was to be thankful. These hearty settlers chose to celebrate their blessings. Think about that for just a moment. Through all of the incredible hardships and sorrows, they gave thanks.
Thanksgiving is about showing gratitude for the blessings we have. If the Pilgrims could be thankful following a year of misfortune, surely we can give thanks in our abundance. The origins of Thanksgiving were humble but the Pilgrim spirit lives on today. When you sit at your table this year, remember how far we have come and how much we should be willing to give thanks.