On Thanksgiving Day, I always take a few moment to reflect on the lives of a group of people who endured persecution in their homeland, lived in exile, made an arduous journey across the North Atlantic, and settled in a hostile foreign land where they endured great hardship. I’m particularly thankful that eight in that company made the journey and the five who survived the first brutal winter in the New World. Those eight are my direct ancestors who were passengers on the Mayflower: John Howland, John Tilley, Joan Hurst Tilley, Isaac Allerton, Mary Norris Allerton, Francis Cooke, Elizabeth Tilley, and Mary Allerton. Another Pilgrim ancestor was Robert Cushman, who was instrumental in organizing the voyage.
The Pilgrims’ concept of thanksgiving was much different than ours. For the Pilgrims, a day of thanksgiving was a day spent in prayer at the town church, thanking God for his blessings. The feast that many credit for being the “first Thanksgiving” wasn’t a day of thanksgiving at all, at least not by their definition.
Nonetheless, I do take the time on this holiday to reflect upon everyone and everything I have to be thankful for. These are troubling times and the future is uncertain but when I think about how uncertain the times and the future were for the Pilgrims, I find hope that we can endure and be better for it. It’s difficult for me to image the world of 1620 but could they have imagined what the world four hundred years in the future would be like? Can we possibly image the world four hundred years from now?