Most historians agree that what we now enjoy as Thanksgiving began as an autumn harvest feast in 1621 near Plymouth, Massachusetts. Coming together in celebration of a bountiful growing season were the Plymouth colonists, who would later be known as the Pilgrims, and neighboring Wampanoag Native Americans.
Approximately 90 Native Americans and some 52 colonists participated. The Pilgrims, initially numbering 102, had set sail from England for the “New World,” in September of 1620. They endured a treacherous crossing of 66 days and a brutal winter that followed their arrival in December.
Somehow these tenacious Pilgrims held on despite disease, inadequate shelter and meager provisions. They were befriended by the Wampanoag, and through the invaluable aid of a liaison known as Squanto, they acquired knowledge such as fishing, hunting and planting — knowledge key to their survival.
Squanto, a member of the neighboring Patuxet tribe, had been captured six years earlier by an English adventurer who then set sail for Spain, with additional captives making up his human cargo. Incredibly, Squanto escaped to England and ultimately back to America. During those years, he acquired a mastery of the English language, an acquisition that would prove to be lifesaving for the Pilgrims.
Anthropologists hold that ancestors of the Wampanoag tribe have lived in Massachusetts for at least 10,000 years. The Pilgrims, upon that first Thanksgiving had been in the neighborhood for less than a year. And yet, these different cultures were able to unite in friendship and cooperation.
The blessings of friendship and community unite us still. God has endowed us with blessings too numerable to count, for which we give thanks today, and all other days. Ranking high among them is the capacity for loving our neighbor, just as God has commanded us to do — and just as the Pilgrims and Wampanoag did in 1621.
I will be at Thanksgiving table today with several dear friends, and for those friends — and our gracious host, I give heartfelt thanks.
Happy birthday Thursday to Larry Morehead of Sherman; Jerry Coffman, Megan Nobles, and Doug Rutherford, all of Denison; and Joyce Trotter DeHorney of Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Happy anniversary Thursday to Perry and Shearin Montgomery of Bells, 49 years.