As a country, we celebrate the holiday known as Thanksgiving in different ways. I realize there are groups of people who have little reason to celebrate a holiday created by ancestors of white Europeans imposing their will upon groups of people and the land they lived upon some five hundred years ago. I am of white European ancestry along with a dash of Powhatan Native American and British-African seaman thrown in for good measure, so I guess it would be natural for me to greet the holiday with decidedly mixed emotions…but I don’t because I am the product of my up bring and will celebrate traditionally with too much food followed by napping through a football game.
This past Sunday our associate minister delivered a traditional Thanksgiving sermon in a somewhat non-traditional way which I would have entitled “In Praise of Celebration.” During his talk, he mentioned the very first Thanksgiving. Not the one we recognize on the fourth Thursday of November by law nor the traditional historical celebration that took place in Plymouth, Massachusetts, eels and all. He spoke of a celebration which took place in Jamestown during the winter of 1610. In 1607, some two hundred “fortune hunters” had come ashore and seized the low, marshy, mosquito filled swamp we now call Jamestown. After three years, their numbers had been reduced to only sixty due to disease, starvation and skirmishes with local native tribes. Due to a delayed supply ship from Bermuda, they were forced to boil their own shoe leather to feed themselves despite the undiscovered oyster beds located in the knee-deep waters feet from their encampment. Much like the cavalry arriving in the nick of time in some old John Wayne movie, the supply ship came to their rescue and not a moment too soon.
My minister made the point that, despite the loss of eighty per cent of their company, the survivors celebrated their good fortune and I don’t believe (my words not his) it should be taken as a “hurrah for me and the hell with everybody else” kind of moment. I understand the feeling of thankfulness despite the feeling of loss that I am sure those sixty souls were experiencing.
Like most folks of my age, I have become used to the loss of friends and family…no not used to it, but rather, accepting their loss as the “circle of life” we will all experience. Rather than dwelling upon my sadness, I choose instead to celebrate my good fortune; still having my health, my loving wife, my immediate family, grandbabies, my friends, food on my table and a roof over my head, much in the same way sixty starving settlers celebrated when their “ship came in.”
It has been a tough six months for those of us who still believe in Superman’s mantra, “truth, justice and the American way.” Rather than lament on the lack of those ideals in our presidential candidates, I shall choose to believe the AMERICAN PEOPLE will find their way back to truth and justice FOR ALL and help create an AMERICAN WAY FOR ALL GOD’S CHILDREN regardless of who happens to be sitting in the White House. Americans have always been resilient, I am thankful we will prove to be again. I am thankful that most of my true friends feel the same.
I am thankful to have discovered a group of people from different geographic areas, political beliefs, religious backgrounds, races and sexual preferences. I have learned to celebrate and embrace their differences and have discovered our similarities far outweigh those differences.
Finally, I am thankful to have the freedom to say Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas to those same people who are observing some thirty different celebrations between Thanksgiving and the end of January. May your God’s good graces shine upon thee. Happy Thanksgiving to all, friend, foe or yet undecided or misunderstood. I love you all.
For more of Don Miller’s unique views of life, humor and Southern stories of a bygone time, try http://goo.gl/lomuQf