Reflections of Thanksgiving

I suppose if there is a downside to our free market republic it would be that the drive to make money overshadows the true meaning of holidays and events.

Of course, the founders warned us that our type of government is only suitable for a moral and virtuous society. The victim and entitlement classes have grown much faster than the personally responsible. There are, of course, bad people in every society all over the world, regardless of the government in power.

We tend to look at the negative rather than the positive. If it “bleeds, it leads” is the mantra of the media. Positive, heartwarming stories are rarely in the headlines. It also does not seem to serve the media to make sure stories spell out the truth.

The origins of our Thanksgiving holiday along with much of our nation’s early history have been a casualty of revisionists. Most of us now recognize the pilgrims and other early colonists came and established very socialized communities. The first years were very difficult and the mortality rate was often 50% or more until a free market society with land ownership led to the success and survival of the groups. The Plymouth pilgrims are widely believed to be the first Thanksgiving, however, that is also in dispute.

In May of 1541, Spanish explorers led by Francisco Vasquez de Coronado camped on the rim of the Palo Duro Canyon near present day Amarillo,TX and celebrated a day of thanksgiving. Early French Huguenot colonists at Ft. Caroline, FL set aside a day of thanksgiving and prayer in June 1564. English settlers in Maine joined in with Abnaki Indians for a thanksgiving holiday feast in the late summer of 1607.

In 1610, the colonists of Jamestown held a day of thanksgiving to celebrate the arrival of supply ships. English settlers arriving at the site of the Berkeley Hundred Plantation on the James River, in 1619, pursuant to their charter declared that the day of their arrival “shall be yearly and perpetually kept holy as a day of thanksgiving to Almighty God.”  It was 1621 before the Plymouth colony would have their famous feast.

These early celebrations were pretty basic and I am quite sure we would not recognize the foods they ate. We have to understand that the early Jamestown settlers arrived in what was likely the worst drought in 800 years. The winter of 1609-1610 was the “starving time” when colonists resorted to eating mice, shoe leather, and even each other. One man killed his pregnant wife, salted and ate her. When it was discovered, he was executed for his crime. This might help us understand their thankfulness might be based on much simpler things such as food, shelter, and life itself.

We live in a nation where the poorest among us live in relative wealth compared to much of the world. Yes, we have people in this nation who have very little, but in a nation of 320 million, the numbers are incredibly small. We need to keep things in perspective and realize there are many people around the world who still worry about what (or if) they or their children will eat today, whether they might have a safe and dry place to sleep, and if they can cover their feet or body with protection from the elements and environment.

As I reflect on what I am personally thankful for, I am overwhelmed by the abundance of blessings, most certainly my cup overflows. I am reminded of the song we sing in church on occasion, “Count Your Blessings.”  As with the media, we often focus on the negative that has affected our lives. Each of us has our burdens to bear, the events in our lives that have tested our resolve. “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

We are experiencing a very divided population, largely fueled by greed, victimization, and arrogance. None of these attributes is conducive to the success of our form of government. If we agree with someone in 9 out of 10 points, we seem to settle on the one disagreement and allow that to destroy any good that might come out of the relationship. Yes, principles are important, and there are things for which there can be no compromise. And yes, compromise and working together takes both sides being willing to do so; it cannot be a one-sided effort.

Perhaps if we become more the person God wants and our founders needed we would draw more to our way of thinking. In my book “Spare Time,” I wrote about us becoming more the people we should be, rather than the people WE want to be, and in so doing, we can solve many of the problems that plague our nation. When times get rough, we and our neighbors will be better served if we are more selfless than selfish.

When Johnson Oatman wrote “Count Your Blessings” in the late 19th century, electric lighting and indoor plumbing were years away from the average person. Heating and cooking were done on wood and coal stoves. Travel was by horse, wagon, or train. The news came by papers and was often days or even weeks old by the time it was read. The nation was still healing from the Civil War, and the Constitution was just 100 years old. Most today would say there was not much back then for which to be thankful.

Liberty Bell from Flickr via Wylio

© 2004 Chris BrownFlickr | CC-BY

So, today my challenge to you is to count your blessings, name them one by one.

There are those that are physical, emotional, and spiritual. Don’t just pause to consider it, think about it. Write it down. Did you think of liberty when you made your list? Our founders did. Once we truly recognize how blessed we are, perhaps we will better recognize the threats to our liberty and be willing to take the required steps to secure this blessing for future generations.

We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America. – Preamble to the US Constitution.



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