A multicultural Thanksgiving
by Robert Docter –
I wonder what the discussions were like just before the Pilgrims decided to invite the Indians to a significant harvest dinner celebration with the onset of their second winter only a few weeks away?
It is late autumn of 1621, around nine months after the Mayflower dropped anchor off Plymouth Rock.
Somewhere around 50 or so of the 102 original Mayflower passengers are still alive following a disastrous winter of disease and death that decimated their ranks. They had buried their dead in unmarked graves on Breeds Hill.
In the spring they had planted to meet their needs. Members of the Wampanoag Indian tribe had taught them much. Cooperation flourished flowing in both directions as they had found ways to assist each other. In the early autumn, the harvest was bountiful. They knew what winter would bring, and now they were much better prepared with homes, a meeting house, strong defenses and organization. Freedom and democracy came to North America on the Mayflower.
Should we invite the Indians?
Undoubtedly, the arguments were almost as plentiful as the harvest. Many of those who survived the first winter would not have made it had it not been for the Indians. The crops would not have been so successful without Indian instruction. But, some said, we are much weaker now than when we landed. Possibly, they argued that their defenses now were much smaller than during the skirmish with the natives shortly after the landing. Others might have added concern about revealing the size of the harvest for fear it would be I suspect there was evidence of some early American racism among some.
Nevertheless, their own freedom brought recognition of the need for equality. No one is truly free unless all are free.
The Wampanoag were invited, and they came.
Thanksgiving demands prayer. It is to God we give thanks for his many blessings. Somewhere, during that first thanksgiving, I suspect someone prayed the prayer of Jesus—the one he taught a befuddled batch of pilgrims, each struggling through his own journey, challenged by his own questions, facing his own doubts. He taught them to pray for community; to pray for daily sustenance for all; to pray for the measure of forgiveness for self according to the measure we grant others.
In teaching his disciples how to pray, Jesus used no first-person pronouns. He taught us to pray to “our Father … to “give us this day … to “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive…” This is a prayer of “us” and “our” and “we”—not a prayer of “I” and “me.”
This Thanksgiving, let’s be mindful of the plight of others.