In our American tradition, the first Thanksgiving is attributed to the Pilgrims that traveled across the Atlantic Ocean to settle in Plymouth. The Mayflower carried 102 hopeful passengers across the wide open ocean to start a new life. They landed in Plymouth on December 21, 1620, but it wasn’t until the fall of 1621 that the 53 surviving settlers celebrated by thanking God for His provision.
From the time the Pilgrims left England until the “First Thanksgiving,” 49 people died, they fought with Native Americans, battled harsh circumstances, suffered extreme weather conditions, and worked extremely hard to establish a new community. They could have been ungrateful for the many difficult circumstances. Yet, this group of people, leaders to a new world, gave thanks.
Why? What would compel a group of people to stop the regular routine of life to passionately and intentionally give thanks? I would suggest there are two reasons: Purpose and Plugged-In.
The Pilgrims left their homeland to pursue freedom. They desired freedom from religious persecution. They desired freedom to worship God in a manner they firmly believed was their right. This compelling purpose inspired them to go on a great adventure; an adventure that meant leaving the past and moving towards a hopeful future. This day of thanksgiving was a day to stop and acknowledge, “We made it!” Yes, they sacrificed more than expected, yet a divine purpose brought them to this point.
In addition to a great purpose, the Pilgrims had a strong faith in a Creator, God, who gave them the strength to come this far on their journey. Yes, they suffered great loss and pain. Yes, they wished it would have been easier. Yet, they had grateful hearts, because they recognized that it was not their strength, but God’s strength that helped them. It was this power source that helped them through the pain, loss, and suffering. It was God’s power they were plugged-in to that provided the strength.
Personally, I’m grateful for the men, women, and children who took a risk to sail on a 100-foot ship to set a foundation and establish the freedoms that we have today. As we lead in our homes, places of work, and communities, let us be driven by a compelling purpose and be plugged-in to the power source that is greater than our own.