Growing up in my family, Thanksgiving was always a blowout. As a small child, we went to my grandparents’ house. It was full to the brim with cousins, aunts, uncles, and fun. But most of all, it was full of food.
My grandparents lived on a farm, and the milk was raw with cream floating to the top. The vegetables were freshly picked from the garden. The piping-hot biscuits smelled wonderful. The turkey was gigantic.
My family wasn’t wealthy in those days, but I never thought of us as poor. Instilled in me was a tradition of trusting in God. This trust was manifest in my parents and grandparents with thankfulness.
For me, the fourth Thursday in November was the biggest celebration of the year. And I looked forward to it with awe.
Fast-forwarding to my first Thanksgiving after being married, I didn’t realize I was marrying into the holiday. Mary Beth, my wife, can trace her lineage to the decks of the Mayflower and a hearty pilgrim by the name of Isaac Allerton. Allerton was one of the original pilgrims who settled in the Plymouth Colony and celebrated the first Thanksgiving. He was the 5th signer of the Mayflower Compact.
Mary Beth works hard every year to make sure the focus of the celebration is on thankfulness. She first serves a small plate of five grains of dried corn. Most Americans don’t realize the provisions served at Plymouth were meager, and they at times only allowed each diner to have five kernels of corn. They were thankful none the less.
Historians believe the first three years of famine were partly the result of communal farming. The economy turned around when they abandoned this system and apportioned land to each man to plant and farm as he wished.
The Pilgrims came to find freedom of worship. Freedom of worship was rare in their time. They wanted to build a “Shining City on a Hill” in this new land. Puritan leader and Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony John Winthrop wrote, “For we must consider that we shall be as a City upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon me. So that if we shall deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken, and so cause him to withdraw his present help from me, we shall be made a story and a byword throughout the world.”
It was this idea upon which America was founded. And America has jealously protected religious freedom, even as the jaws of big government have devoured so many other freedoms.
Wonderfully in America, each individual is free to believe or not believe as his or her conscience dictates.
I am thankful that today, I will have the privilege to worship my God, and hold him high as my Creator, Protector, and Deliverer. I am thankful I can still do this alone or in assembly with others.
I am thankful for a God who accepts me; so despite my own weaknesses, I can have the hope of eternal life with Christ Jesus.
This is my family tradition, and I am thankful these ideas were taught to me as a young child and reinforced by a loving family. I am thankful I was born in a land that protects my freedom to believe. I am blessed to be an American.
America is a special place. Have a Happy Thanksgiving.