One of the pilgrims wrote at the time: "By the goodness of God, we are so far from want."
The menu for that first Thanksgiving had some surprises. It was not turkey and pumpkin pie. Historians say they probably ate fowl and venison. The pilgrims didn't have forks, they used spoons. More likely, they ate with their hands. They didn't have much sugar, so deserts, including pumpkin pie were not on the menu.
Whatever it may have involved, that meal left us with an enduring tradition: a gathering around a table, giving thanks for surviving in an uncertain and difficult new place.
A few years ago, the Unitarian minister Peter Fleck suggested we look at Thanksgiving differently. Maybe, he wrote, the pilgrims weren't thankful because they had survived. But maybe they had survived...because they were thankful. These were people who lived their lives in wonder and hope, grateful for everything, the hard winds and deep snows...the frightening evenings and hopeful mornings ...the long journey that had taken them to a new place. They knew how to express gratitude.
Maybe that spirit can teach us something, as we endure our own hard winds and deep snows - the storms of our own lives and that of our beloved nation, especially now. So as Reverend Fleck so beautifully put it, maybe the pilgrims weren't thankful because they survived.
Maybe they survived because they were thankful.