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John Bressler - Why the joy of Thanksgiving is so special

John Bressler - Why the joy of Thanksgiving is so special

John Bressler - Why the joy of Thanksgiving is so special

John Bressler

       I don't remember when I began to realize that there was something special about the celebration we call Thanksgiving. I knew that Thanksgiving began in the Fall when the leaves were changing and there was a chill in the air. I do remember those days in West Virginia when I would walk to school and my breath looked like steam coming from a kettle.
       The teacher would tell us to put away our book and would pass out crayons, scissors, paper , and glue and then create pictures of pumpkins, Indians and Pilgrims, whatever Pilgrims were. I soon found that Pilgrim was a name given to both men and women who, supposedly, wore black clothing with white trim, lived in rough hewn cabins, surrounded by Native Americans and ate a lot of food on a day called Thanksgiving. That was a first impression.
       I also learned that relatives - who I did not know and who drove many, many miles - came to eat with us. I had to sleep on the floor in the living room while all the big people sat in the kitchen, keeping me awake until daylight swapping stories and laughing out loud just as I almost fell asleep.
       There was a day mother and her female relatives closing up the kitchen and starting to cook and bake somewhere around six in the morning. I could smell all sorts of good things. Some smelled sweet, some sour, some mouth-watering and some just plain old different. Then it was time to eat!
       Mom was the only religious person in the family and she gave thanks while most everyone else bowed his head while keeping one eye open to make certain no one grabbed the dressing until after the "amen."
       Years later, I began to understand the misery those early settlers endured and the unbelievable hardships they overcame. In the midst of myth and history, I began to realize that their survival was miraculous and their future was a prelude to this generation. Yes, I believe they gave thanks, but I do not believe they gave thanks for the pain, death, deprivation and unimaginable struggles. They gave thanks to God Almighty who spared a remnant because they knew He had saved them for a future greater than they could hope for and for those who would follow in their footsteps. If we are to be truly grateful and truly thankful, then a part of our Thanksgiving is to praise God for those men and women who gave to us the work of their hands and the strength of their faith. We need this so much in today's world.
       We do not face the unprotected wilderness of 1620, but we face a cold and hostile world that twists morality, ethics, freedom and hope to fit its own devious purposes. We face a world that sees others as stepping stones, ones to be used and to be thrown away. We are as Pilgrims on the edge of a primeval forest surrounded by the threat of extinction, naked to the world and starving for news that we are not expendable, help is on the way and we will and must make a difference.
       In the words of the Psalmist, "What are we that You take notice of us ... and who am I that You would even care for me?" The Lord God answers, "You have been created in My image... I have crowned you with glory and honor. I have given you this world."
       And we shout courageously, "0, Lord, our Lord, how majestic is Your Name in all the earth!"



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