Thursday, November 22, 2012

Giving Thanks

So I had started out with the intention of writing a clever, pithy and indicting rant about the evils of Black Friday and how it's criminal that it's overshadowing Thanksgiving and how I'm frustrated and disappointed that I tried, yet failed, to make my daughter see that going out shopping with her friends tonight was contributing to the unraveling of civil society.

I believe all those things.  But I'm not going to do that.  Instead, I'm going to relate here, to the best of my memory, the story that my husband told as a grace before dinner today.  We had 15 for dinner, and another seven for dessert, which was approximately double the number we had originally expected.  These things happen.   My in-laws were supposed to go to Florida early this year, but that trip didn't work out as planned, and my daughter's boyfriend's family is going through a nasty divorce.  We invited his mom and brother to join us for dinner.  So it was a wonderful mixed table with my parents, his parents. life-long friends, their parents, and daughter and son in law, Daisy Mae's boyfriend's family, and entirely too much food.

When S got up to say grace, I held my breath.  This is the third Thanksgiving we have celebrated without Kiersten, and I was a bit worried that there might be too much emotion.  Instead, he gave us a life lesson by way of a history lessen.  I'd like to share it with you, because it's been in my head all day.

"I want to tell you a story of the first Thanksgiving.  In 1620, two ships set out from Southampton England: the Speedwell, which had originally set out from Leiden, in the Netherlands, and the Mayflower, which we all know.  The Speedwell sustained damage early in the trip and had to turn back, leaving the Mayflower to carry all 102 passengers to the new world.

They sailed 65 days, and then took another full month to find an appropriate place to land.  The place they found had been abandoned three years earlier because the tribe of native Americans who had occupied the land had perished from smallpox.

The first winter was terribly hard and by spring, only 43 of the original 102 remained.

In the spring, the Pilgrims were greeted by Samoset, the chief of a nearby tribe, who spoke a bit of English.  He, in turn, introduced the Pilgrims to Squanto, who spoke their language and who taught them to live in their new land.  Even with Squanto's help, however, the Pilgrims had a very meager harvest that first year.  But the local chiefs, Samoset and Massasoit, and the rest of the Abenaki people showed the Pilgrims friendship and together they learned to get along, and that first Autumn, Massasoit brought ninety of his tribe to the Pilgrim village at Plymouth, loaded with food that would not only make a feast for them all, but would help sustain the Pilgrims through the winter.

Now, there is nothing you haven't heard before in that story; we all grew up with it.  But consider this:  Here were two groups of people who had no obligation to show each other friendship.  Squanto, in fact, learned English because he had been kidnapped and taken to Portugal as a slave years earlier. He had every reason to distrust these new strangers. Likewise the other natives:  they didn't share blood, or religion, or culture, yet these people came together and made a family of sorts.  And they gave thanks for that friendship and for what resources they could share.

As I look out at this table, I see a family.  Not all of us are related by blood -- few of us are, really.  But I see much loved people who have come together to give thanks -- real thanks --for what we share.  So I say thank you.  Thank you for the absolutely bountiful meal we have in front of us.  Thank you for the beautiful family I see gathered here.  Thank you for the beloved friends and family who have been here in the past and will perhaps be here again in the future.  Thank you for the souls who cannot share our table here on Earth any longer.  You live on in our hearts, and we love and miss you daily.

But mostly, thank you for the lesson that the first Thanksgiving can still teach us:  to be kinder than is necessary, to try loving each other first, last and always, to give thanks each and every day for what we have, and to make the most of every loving minute we share."

There wasn't a dry eye in the house.

I'm proud of you, honey.  Happy Thanksgiving.


Alison said...

Happy Thanksgiving. xo

bhd said...