This year offers many possible obstacles to giving thanks next week. For instance, some in power have suggested that families not travel or gather for Thanksgiving. David Eggert and Rachel La Corte, writing an Associated Press story titled, “Governors ratchet up restrictions ahead of Thanksgiving,” reported, “Thanksgiving was on the minds of leaders nationwide as they enacted tougher restrictions amid fears that the holiday will lead to more infections.
“We don’t really want to see mamaw at Thanksgiving and bury her by Christmas,” said Dr. Mark Horne, president of the Mississippi State Medical Association.
Still others emphasized the economic and other COVID-related challenges to our daily lives as reasons to worry.
But a bit of history may help.
Back in March of 1621, a Puritan immigrant to our shores wrote, “And in three months past, die Half our Company. The greatest part in the depth of winter, wanting houses and other comforts; being infected with the scurvy and other diseases. So, as there die sometimes two or three a day. Of one hundred persons, scarce 50 remain. The living scarce able to bury the dead (including) Master Brewster, their reverend Elder, and Master Standish the Captain.”
Nine months later, the first Thanksgiving, a three-day affair attended mostly by Puritan men (most of the female Pilgrims had already died) and Native Americans was held specifically to thank God under circumstances which remain unimaginable today.
Giving thanks to God could not have been an easy task then. So how about Thanksgiving 2020 here?
“Our lives have been disrupted as individuals, as families, and as a community,” said the Rev. Lillian Hyde, interim rector of Galveston’s Trinity Episcopal Church. “Our familiar patterns of being together have been altered, and at times, it seems difficult to find good news. My thoughts are drawn to that first Thanksgiving, when people had struggled for quite some time, and barely made it to that day alive. And yet they gave thanks. Everyone wasn’t there. They were lonely and afraid. And yet they gave thanks.”
Rabbi Stuart Federow of Clear Lake’s Congregation Shaar Hashalom said what we miss, we also can value.
“Every year, we have the holiday of Thanksgiving to remind us to be grateful, and to express our thanks to God,” he told Our Faith. “Are there people whose presence we miss because we cannot shake their hand, or hug them or even poke them in the shoulder to say we are glad to be with them? We look forward in gratitude and with hope, to the day when all these gifts of God, once again will be ours.”
The Rev. Mark Marmon leads Hitchcock’s All Saints’ Episcopal. He offered an additional perspective.
“We should look at how we coped with previous events,” he said. “Take the armed services personnel who can’t be home for the holidays. The traveling entrepreneur who’s productivity dependence keeps them on the road. The medical or industry worker, who draws the holiday shift, so others can be at home. We will have to continue to persevere until everyone recognizes that this is not going to be easy, short in time span or completely resolved by just a single medical remedy.”
Marmon assured we’re not looking at the end of the world just yet.
“God remains constant in our lives, no matter what,” he added.
David Bridges, the senior pastor of the Friendswood Friends Church, said, “Gratitude is one of the premiere skills of faithful people. The Christian scriptures instruct us to give thanks over and over and over again. Even in the midst of unpleasant situations, like a pandemic, there are still things for which we can be grateful. May that practice encourage you in ways that make this Thanksgiving a wonderful one too.”
Life during COVID-19 may be harder on huggers like the Rev. Tim Franklin who heads The Connection, a Foursquare Church in Texas City.
“We have isolated and distanced to the point that many of us have been left craving some human contact.” he said. “Huggers now find themselves being kept at arm’s length from friends and family. It leaves me a bit frustrated and disappointed. But perhaps instead of focusing on the frustration, it would be a good time to reflect on what others have meant to us and to look forward to the opportunities ahead.”
The Pilgrims’ 1621 celebration led to observances in a few states over the next two centuries, but it wasn’t until 1863, in the midst of arguably the greatest tragedy that America has ever experienced, the Civil War, that President Abraham Lincoln declared it to be an annual, national holiday.
Lincoln’s proclamation said, in part, “I do therefore invite my fellow citizens to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.”
Next week in Our Faith: A new pastor comes to West Isle Presbyterian.