We all know the story of the Pilgrims coming to America, (even I, the Canadian, know enough about this piece of American history.) They left England (by way of Holland, by way of England, oh nevermind) in search of religious freedom. They lost one of their ships on the arduous journey, and by the end of the first winter they had lost approximately half of their group. It is pretty hard to start a whole new civilization with 47 people. In their traditions they feasted as a celebration and they fasted in times of trouble. Had I been a pilgrim I’d have been fasting every other day. Instead, they gave thanks. They rejoiced over every little thing, they appreciated so much and had so little. They were a very grateful people. While not the first to have a harvest celebration or a feast to give thanks, their story is a good one to look toward as an early archetype for our Thanksgiving celebrations.
Their story is not unlike that of the Mormon pioneers travelling west. They, too, were escaping religious persecution and seeking religious freedom. They also travelled a great distance, lost countless members of the group along the way, and endured incredible hardships. They, too, were quick to give things, quick to lift their hearts and rejoice.
Thanks to the efforts of both of those groups and so many more, we live in religious freedom. We do not have to travel great distances and lose many of our family members to death and disease in search of relief from persecution. We have so much that we take for granted that is considered luxury by people around the world.
We can learn a lesson from these travellers of old. We can pattern our own lives after the example of gratitude we see in them. We can learn to be happy amid sorrow, and grateful for trials. It is in our greatest struggles that we can feel the tender mercies of God, for that is when we discover how much He buoys us up and strengthens us. I know firsthand that this is true, and am grateful for the depth of my own struggles as they have brought me to my knees and led me to know my God and His infinite love for me.