It was two days before Thanksgiving and time for the annual Thanksgiving Program. I was in second grade. For days my classmates and I worked on our costumes. Some of the boys created black construction paper hats to wear that were as tall as silos. Several other boys and girls fashioned orange construction paper headbands with multi-colored construction paper feathers stapled to them. The remainder of the girls in my class donned themselves with white construction paper hats shaped like boats and aprons made from butcher paper. Those were my people.
On the big day, right before lunch, we found ourselves squished together on risers on the stage in our cafeteria/auditorium/gymnasium. To my horror, we actually had an audience. I was completely unprepared for that. I had not connected the dots that costumes meant performance and performance meant people staring at you. But sure enough, as I looked out from behind the big black construction paper hat in front of me, mothers and younger siblings and a grandparent or two smiled up at us from wooden folding chairs. I certainly didn’t tell my mom about this little performance, but there she was. As the lunch ladies clanged pots around in the background, we began our program of thankfulness. We sang the hit parade of Thanksgiving, patriotic, and turkey songs. ‘This land is your land’, ‘We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessings’, and ‘Turkey in the straw’ never had sounded so inspirational. This, despite the fact that I had lost my voice and the orange head-banded person beside me had stepped on my paper apron and tore it in two. If you are of a certain generation, I’m sure you have a similar memory.
Thanksgiving is just days away and my thoughts have turned to that first Thanksgiving back in 1621. It’s been awhile since I thought of those folks. But, in my old age I’ve grown into a history geek and can’t help thinking thoughts like, ‘Did they really eat turkey that day?’
Of the 102 colonists who set sail on the Mayflower, only fifty-three made it through that first winter. The following fall, those grateful fifty-three invited ninety Wampanoag Indians to be their guests at a harvest dinner. And, the special guest of honor was Chief Massasoit. The pilgrims had much to be thankful for even though all of them had lost people they loved on the way to their dream. If truth be told, those remaining, knew they were only alive by the grace of God, and Massasoit. They called him King Massasoit. Those darn pilgrims still had a lot of England in them that had to run its course. The celebration lasted over several days. Who knew pilgrims were such party animals, right?
Why Massasoit didn’t kill them the moment they first arrived tells you a lot about the guy. The history books tell us he was kind and fair-minded. The Mayflower bunch had to have been scrawny weenies as they rolled off the gang plank flashing their weak, scurvy smiles. He could have knocked them off with a pea-shooter. Instead, he chose to teach them how to live. Corn saved the day, I hear. So, the pilgrims wanted to show their appreciation and a simple ‘thank you note’ wouldn’t do. Action was needed to express what words couldn’t. And, cranberries helped as well.
Food for thought: Who should you invite to your table this Thanksgiving? Who has saved your life (literally or figuratively) in the last year?
We all say we want our country to get its civility back, to return to acts of kindness, to remember our manners, and to once again demonstrate gratefulness for our freedoms, our food, our shelter, our families, our safety, our blessings, our friends, our churches and each other.
So, let’s start here: Is there a Massasoit in your life you need to show some gratitude, thankfulness, and appreciation to? Then, invite him or her to your table this year. Show them your gratefulness for the part they’ve played in your life, and don’t forget the construction paper accessories, they are always a nice touch.