A SEASON OF THANKS
November 18, 2005
The story of the first traditional Thanksgiving began 385 years ago when a group of men and women fleeing persecution boarded a ship and set sail for freedom in the New World. The group, who would come to call themselves Pilgrims, battled treacherous weather conditions and bouts of sickness throughout the nine weeks they spent on the high seas.
They were bound for Virginia, but their ship lost course and they landed in Massachusetts, a territory outside of the King's Charter. Without a government, they took the responsibility of establishing their own. The Pilgrims wrote a set of laws called The Mayflower Compact. Only after all had signed it, on November 11, 1620, did they leave the Mayflower to begin their new life at the place they named Plymouth.
The first winter was harsh: starvation and disease claimed the lives of half of their group. In the midst of the terrible winter, they were given the opportunity to return to England the next spring, but not a single Pilgrim chose to leave. In the spring, the Pilgrim's fortune began to change. Aided by the local Indian population, they learned various crop planting techniques. At the time of the first harvest in October, the Pilgrims had much to be thankful for. The harvest was bountiful and there was food enough to store for the winter months. They had built new homes and a church and were living in peace with their Native American neighbors. They bowed their heads on that fall day and thanked God for all that they had.
As folks across the Sixth District gather to celebrate Thanksgiving this year, I hope they will maintain the gratefulness to God displayed by the Pilgrims, and remember that it is to those early and courageous Pilgrims that we owe not only the traditional Thanksgiving holiday but also the concept of self-government, a sense of community, a strong work ethic, and the inseparable role of faith in our history.
For my family, Thanksgiving is a time to give thanks to God and to help those who may be less fortunate. Thanksgivings through the centuries have provided unique opportunities to show appreciation for others, as well as reach out a hand to those in need. Even on those occasions when we are hurting, or find an empty chair at our table, we can find comfort in doing something for others.
And so during this season of national Thanksgiving, let us follow the example of past Americans who in various seasons of our shared history, during hardship and prosperity alike, gave thanks for the blessings they enjoyed, including the precious liberty that is our birthright as Americans. God bless you all, and from my family to yours - Happy Thanksgiving.