Several years ago, I was a foreigner in a strange land on Thanksgiving day. Every Thanksgiving since, I’ve thought back to how my wonderful friends there were. They welcomed me and my traditions into their lives. I’ve written a the short tale below to try and share the feelings about this day that I was blessed with thanks to the generosity of my foreign hosts.
Four hundered nintey years, several months and one very long, hungry winter ago, the locals of a harsh land walked out of their homes and into what was surely little more than a shanty town of makeshift dwellings at what would become known as Plymouth colony.
The locals shared the fruits of expertise in a bounty only available to those who’d lived there long enough to build up the surplus of food, resrouces and communal connections.
The immigrants were a foreign color, mostly refused to adopt the local clothing and cultural practices, and kept an insular community where they only knew each other and spoke their native language— ignoring the language of thier new home.
But on a day not unlike today, all those years ago, a group of locals looked far enough past the differences to share a common experience, at a common table and a common meal.
On this, our national day of Thanksgiving, we retell these stories of hardship too often as ones of triumph of our early immigrant forebearers, and not often enough as ones of generous locals looking past the differences that devide parts of our nation today.
In giving thanks, I encourage you to remember what really came to pass on the day we have elevated to a status shared with the births of our founders and commemeration of our veterans sacrifices.
Those natives, so long ago, looked past the devisions that tear at our socity’s seams today. They reached out the most sincere hand of welcome- one full of food. The locals, often portrayed as savages, provided the warmth of a universal human experience- a bountiful meal.
Now, it’s unlikley that the story hapened as it is retold to us each generation, but, as I am fond of saying, there is a difference between the facts and the truths.
The truths therein, which we’ve found self-evident enough to decalre this day a holiday, are that all people are created equal and endowed by their creator with equality and human dignity that the natives recognized in their shabby visitors.
For one day, allow every one to feel welcome in your homeland, and attempt a shared experience that can create, if not a love, at least an understanding, among men.
We will all, native and immigrant alike, lead enriched lives for having honored one of our great founding truths- one we like to think Thoimas Jefferson penned, borrowed from French enlightenment thinkers
It’s a truth the Pilgrim’s native benefactors understood and acted on.
So, on this and every Thanksgiving, I ask those of us who have enjoyed a life built on generations of prosperity and comradeship to remember the truth of shared humanity with all people- even the most recently arrived and unadapted immigrants.
In Love and Thanks,