At the kick-off of the holiday season, we start in a very important way: we begin by giving thanks. Often at this point in the year, we get lost in the small family dramas, stresses, annoyances and worries. We can begin to focus too much on the details of the holiday rather than the holidays themselves.
But this holiday has a particular relevance to us in 2018.
Thanksgiving’s roots lie in the arrival of the pilgrims in Plymouth Bay in 1620. The English colonists were mostly separatists who sought religious liberty in a new land. When they landed in Plymouth Bay at the beginning of the winter of 1620 they were horrendously unprepared — only half of the colonists survived until the spring.
Their astonishing connection with Squanto, a member of the Pawtuxet Native American tribe, ultimately saved the colonists. He had been kidnapped and sold as a slave in England before escaping back home, and therefore was able to communicate with the Pilgrims, teaching them how to forage, hunt and cultivate the foreign soil.
The following harvest, Massachusetts Bay Colony Governor William Bradford held a three-day feast and invited their Native American allies, including the chief of the Wampanoag tribe.
There is a great example of mercy and redemption in the story of the first pilgrims. Squanto, who had every right to despise the English, taught them with mercy and care, ultimately saving their lives.
At a time when polarization in our country is seeping into our family gatherings, we look to the story of the first Thanksgiving as a balm of mercy. People in our families with differing opinions, neighbors in great need from natural disasters such as fire and flood, those in our communities who are lonely or in need — all of these people in our lives offer us the opportunity to practice mercy.
So this Thanksgiving, in a year that has, in many ways, been characterized by conflict and strife, let us remember the mercy and redemption that are more important to this holiday than deciding which side dish to make.
This Thanksgiving, we invite you to allow the redemptive meaning of the holiday to influence your celebration, bringing about healing in your family and in our world.
Happy Thanksgiving from OneLife LA!