Giving thanks on Thanksgiving

Monday, November 20, 2017

The story that has formed the basis of the Thanksgiving holiday is a nice one. It is a story of sharing and acceptance.

As the story goes, the Pilgrims landed in America, the "Indians" they found there welcomed them, and they all sat down to a nice feast of Native American foods like corn and turkey.

As we reflect on the story we were told in elementary school, in which the brave Pilgrims met up with Native Americans and shared a meal, we cannot forget the other side.

At the "first Thanksgiving" the Wampanoag Nation provided most of the food and signed the treaty granting Pilgrims the right to the land at Plymouth.

We cannot forget that nearly 70 percent of all crops grown today were originally cultivated by Native American peoples. How would those of us of European descent handle our spaghetti without the tomatoes that were introduced to the Pilgrims?

Though Thanksgiving is supposed to be about acceptance and giving thanks for the things we have, historically, the holiday has been associated with hardship and less-than-ideal circumstances, like those of the first Thanksgiving and perhaps this Thanksgiving with Donald Trump in the White House.

When Lincoln established the holiday in 1863, Americans were dying by the thousands in the throes of civil war. Roosevelt signed the holiday into law barely three weeks after Pearl Harbor, another time of tragedy and hardship.

Today, many are faced with economic hardship without the means to enjoy the meal that so many of us are able to take for granted.

This is not a time to blame but a time to reflect, for the sake of those who remember a different history, for those who are without families or homes in which to celebrate.

Thanksgiving, no matter how it was established, is a time to not only give thanks for what we have, it is also an opportunity to reflect on the less fortunate and on what Native Americans continue to suffer.

Let's take the time to consider how valuable it is to give thanks for everyone. And then do it.