Just a thought: A new world begins at Plymouth Rock

It was 400 years ago on November 19, 1620 when a group from England called Pilgrims, after a long journey across the Atlantic Ocean, first sighted land in what was later to become Cape Cod, Massachusetts. They were traveling on a ship called the Mayflower. The ship’s captain, Christopher Jones, had been sailing west right off the map for over two months after leaving Plymouth, England on September 16th.

A Pilgrim is a traveler who comes from a far away land on a journey to a holy place. These first colonists are called Pilgrims because their trip across the ocean was to seek religious freedom from the volatile political environment in England.

On December 26th, 102 colonists landed at Plymouth and set up their future homes on land that 156 years later would become America. Plymouth, Massachusetts was to become the second successful English settlement (after Jamestown, Virginia in 1607) and is now is the oldest British settlement in our country.

What a sight it must have been to the Indian inhabitants of the Plymouth area to see a strange ship off their shore and then to have white skinned newcomers get off the boat and settle on their land. Fortunately for the colonists, the custom of the Indians was to welcome guests with kindness. But for this, the Pilgrims would not have survived. 

The wheat the Pilgrims brought to plant would not grow in the rocky soil. The Indians gave the settlers their seed and taught them new ways to fish and grow food. The Plymouth colony did not have enough food to feed half of the 102 colonists, but because of the help of the Wampanoag Indians, the colonists were able to sustain those who made the new land home.

In 1621 on the one year anniversary of the settlement at Plymouth, the Pilgrims held a feast of thanksgiving and celebrated as the results of a good harvest.

The gathering of the harvest and the gratefulness of the provisions of the harvest in 1621 are the roots of what most Americans believe was the first Thanksgiving on our soil. Although Thanksgiving has been celebrated annually since 1621 on various dates in the fall, it would not become an official national holiday until December 26, 1941 when President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed a bill into law making the fourth Thursday in November a day of thanksgiving. 

On a very cold day in December several years ago, my wife Tanya and I drove down from Boston and were able to visit Plymouth Rock. Even with a heater in our car and coats on our backs, it was very uncomfortable for us at the rock on that gloomy, wet, and windy day. It made me appreciate what these brave colonists had to do to survive and to make it through the first winter.

Besides having to overcome the weather, the British adventurers lived with the fear of starvation, disease, and their neighbors who inhabited the land ahead of them. 

Thanksgiving began as a celebration of the harvest for the year. It was necessary for the settlers to stockpile their harvest to make it through the harsh winter months. Food had to be stored for the colonists to survive from December to April.

The first settlers of our land had much to be thankful for. We have much to be thankful for today.

Let’s fast forward four centuries to Thanksgiving of 2020. The world has changed. The Pilgrims were grateful just to be alive after a long year in a new land. Today we take our survival over the past year for granted and we instead live in a time of “entitlement.” If we feel we are entitled, then we don’t have an attitude of gratitude.

We don’t need to look far to find how each of us have been blessed. If I gave you a sheet of paper and asked you to list out the things you are thankful for one at a time, I am confident your list would be a long one. Your list would likely include many things that you take for granted. We live in a time when we have each been blessed so abundantly, yet we fail to focus on the blessings and instead we often focus on what we don’t have.

Whether you are thankful for what you have or unhappy for what you don’t have, you still have the same things. This sums up what Thanksgiving is to me. It is a time to focus on the blessings we have received.

Thanksgiving is a time to be grateful and to appreciate that at a time when about half the world survives on less than a few dollars a day, we can move a metal handle and fresh water comes out. We can move a switch and hot air flows into our home. We can open the door of a cabinet or a refrigerator and we can have food ready to eat. We push a button and food gets hot in seconds.

We feel a physical ailment and we can walk into a building where medical attention by individuals with a high level of training can administer tests and help us feel better. We can walk out our front door and travel in whatever direction we want without fear of harm occurring to us. We can sit down with others who share our beliefs and study a religious book without any concerns of being arrested or imprisoned. 

We can pick up a phone and punch numbers and tell close family members who live hundreds of miles away that we love them. We can push buttons and bring others across the oceans to the screen of our computer and then in real time interact with them.

We have it so good and we don’t even realize it. We don’t need to look far to find things to be thankful for.

My challenge to you today is to take time to reflect on all you have been blessed with. Set aside any anxiousness about tomorrow or what may or may not be ahead down the road. Thanksgiving is about what you have at this time. It is about what you have been given. It is about the present. It is about having an attitude of gratitude for what you have been blessed with.

Take time this Thanksgiving to be grateful for the harvest that you have. I know a group of 102 Pilgrims almost four centuries ago who didn’t take anything that they had for granted. Their very existence was based on the harvest they had been provided.

Just a thought...

Rick Kraft wishes you and your family a happy and blessed Thanksgiving holiday. To submit comments, contributions, or ideas, e-mail to rkraft@kraftlawfirm.org or write to P.O. Box 850, Roswell, NM, 88202-0850.

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