What do you imagine when you think of the first Thanksgiving? Prim people in black hats with buckles, dressed in crisp outfits with white collars? Instead, imagine tired moms and dads, thrilled to finally have enough food for their hungry children. Picture Wampanoag warriors, hauling in whole deer as their contribution to the meal. The tables weren’t beautifully appointed with chic centerpieces and fine flatware; most of the guests probably sat on the ground or on nearby tree stumps, eating from wooden bowls.
For the Pilgrims, that year had been brutal. Many people they loved had died from accidents, privation, or illness. Their shining dream of a free Promised Land had melted into the grim reality of dark, dense forest and hard, unbroken ground.
The American Indians looked out from the sheltering boughs of that wild forest, and they saw haggard, white-faced men and women, slow and stumbling from weariness and lack of food. The tribes saw that these newcomers had the will to survive. All they lacked was knowledge—and enough supplies to give them a second chance.
And then came the wonder that makes Thanksgiving so special. Although they did not know Him, God moved in the hearts of those Native Americans, planting seeds of mercy. With the Wampanoags’ help the Pilgrims had a bountiful harvest, and Governor William Bradford invited everyone to feast and celebrate.
That first Thanksgiving feast went on for three days. No one forgot the sadness of the past months, but they let joy and gratitude overflow instead. They lived out Psalm 106:1, “Give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good: for his mercy endureth forever.”
Thanksgiving Day exists to remind us of all the blessings and gifts of the year, especially the ones that fill your heart so full of gladness so that sorrow has no room—the small arms of a child around your neck, the laugh of someone you cherish, the smile of a friend.
So “let the peace of God rule in your hearts . . . and be ye thankful” (Colossians 3:15–17).
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Rebecca K. is a work-at-home freelance writer, a novelist, a wife, and a mom of two bright-eyed little ones. She credits her success in writing and her love of books to her mom, who homeschooled three kids from pre-K through high school.