However you feel about the history of the First Thanksgiving, I find it a laudable example of colonists and Native Americans coming alongside one another. The history afterward between the colonists and natives may not be exemplary in all occasions, but neither were the histories between the Native American tribes.
First, some historical facts I was reminded of today:
The first national observation that George Washington called for was to be a day of fasting and giving thanks. "Humiliation" was a common term used with proclamations of thanksgiving by the Continental Congress and later. It is a stark contrast to our feasting followed by shopping gluttony today.
Abraham Lincoln was the first President to institute Thanksgiving as a national holiday (upon the insistence of the woman who wrote "Mary Had a Little Lamb"). In the midst of the Civil War, Lincoln declared a time of giving thanks to help bring the nation together.
As I was listening to NPR on our drive to be with family today I was reminded in the midst of interviews with Anne Lamott and Julia Sweeney how wonderful of a holiday Thanksgiving can be. It's something everyone can celebrate. We all have something to be thankful for. We also don't need to have a specific deity that we follow in order to be thankful (though, of course, I have my thoughts on the God who provides everything).
I've written before about how "gratitude evaporates frustration" (as learned from my old mentor in camping ministry). There have been scientific studies on how gratitude increases our level of happiness. In short, gratitude is a good thing. It gets us out of ourselves and reminds us that we need others.
I know I need to be more thankful through out my day--every day of the year. I don't take enough time in the midst of work and parenting and life to look at all I have and be thankful for it all. I'm more apt to focus on the things that are stressful, annoying, or bothering me. And focusing on those things gets me back inside myself where it's all about me in a selfish way. But when I'm focused on gratitude I realize how blessed I am and how I have nothing to worry about, complain about, or fear.
I'm getting some time this holiday with my new twin nieces whom I'm finally getting to see for the first time. My sister (herself a twin) had some complications toward the end of her pregnancy and the girls were born a bit early and spent time in the NICU. But they're both beautiful and growing well.
They can't take care of themselves; everything they need is provided for them by their parents. I have a Father who provides everything I need as well. More than I need. Certainly more than I deserve. For all I have been given, I am grateful.
Thanksgiving reminds me that life is good.