I wrote this five years and a day ago. It was my hope then as it is my intention now to put a holiday we celebrate on the ‘fourth Thursday of every November’ into a large enough context that all we can (and should) see are our similarities because (maybe just me?) we seem to spend much of the rest of the year arguing over our differences and why those differences are so much more important than all the things we share.
On a day that both commemorates and celebrates the importance of sharing what you have with those who do not I hope our individual reasons to be thankful are nearly innumerable but more importantly they don’t get lost among the cornbread stuffing and the secret recipe sweet-potato pie.
They were very poor and had come a long way with very little money and less hope. The lives they led had been so desperate that arriving uninvited in a land that had no use for them seemed attractive.
The first months were terribly hard. The immigrants didn't know the customs, didn't understand the language, had little grasp of the nature of the place they had come to live in and even less desire to learn of it.
Arriving in the middle of winter, totally unprepared for the season's savagery by their experiences in their own country, nearly half were dead by the Spring.
Their hosts had difficulties with the settlers. Their customs, their language, their religion were all so different from what they had known-it was hard to see the point of attempted community.
On more than occasion, as it had proven, befriending the new ones had been unwise as more of their sort just kept showing up and crowding out those who had lived in the area for so many decades.
The emigres were in a precarious predicament. It had taken almost all of their savings to make the trip to what they hoped would be a fresh start. They believed, or wanted to, that if they worked hard and did well, one day they could send for family and friends to join them in their brave adventure. But every day was a challenge and more often than not, often without victory. They were isolated, decimated and left to their own devices.
It took extraordinary hospitality and courageous kindness by one of the long-time residents of the established community to extend a helping hand and organize support so that as the following fall approached the new people had reasons to believe.
How fortunate there was nothing like a Secure Border Initiative.
Fortunate for us, that is.
We, the direct and indirect descendants of those first arrivals nearly five hundred years ago, will tomorrow celebrate Thanksgiving, possible only because Samoset ignored the arguments and fears of so many of his fellow Abenaki and welcomed the Pilgrims to the New World, establishing even before we were a nation, a tradition and legacy of welcoming all to our shores.Happy Thanksgiving.