Written by Paul Penner Tuesday, 24 November 2009 13:38
The pilgrims made seven times more graves than huts… nevertheless, set aside a day of thanksgiving. —H.W. Westermayer
As a student of history, my late father explored the connection between past and current events. In my father’s history and Bible classes, on more than one occasion Dad emphasized the old saying, “Those who forget the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them.”
Wisdom rarely comes to us without exacting a price in return for its benefits. The pilgrims made the connection between past events and their present circumstances. Instead of only losing many lives, all might have perished. Without the assistance of Native Americans and the pilgrims’ faith in a Higher Power, instead of celebration and giving thanks, there would be silence.
The pilgrims’ survival in the new world after the first year’s hardships was a cause for celebration and expressing gratitude to those who made their survival possible. Not only did they celebrate as a community, sharing the fruits of their labors, one can imagine they may have reflected on the harsh lessons learned while recognizing the kindness of their Native American friends.
Thanksgiving is a cause for celebrating, not only our blessings of today, but also to remember our journey from the past to the present. Though we may be experiencing an economic recession, in comparison to much of the world, we are very wealthy, thanks to the sacrifices of our ancestors who made our affluence possible.
Are we too confident of our present status and too arrogant to admit our dependence on other people? When I hear someone saying, “I never live in the past. The future is all that matters,” I’m inclined to answer “yes.”
I’m in favor of moving forward into the future as much as the next person. Even so, those words “moving forward” are fast becoming a tired, worn-out cliche, especially when we are too anxious to leave the past behind.
In business, “moving forward” indicates an aggressive intent to create new opportunities for building wealth, Though some may argue against wealth creation, that’s not necessarily a bad thing, either. Within that paradigm, wealth creation also creates opportunities for job growth, potentially raising everyone‘s standard of living. Who in his or her right mind would argue against that logic?
Even so, the financial crisis Americans experience today is in part the result of “forgetting the lessons of history.” Generations of Americans benefited from lessons learned from the Great Depression, and yet, less than a century later, we are suffering for our financial misdeeds and the misdeeds of others.
In our community, moving forward implies a progressive attitude that works to make our community a desirable place to live, work and play. We value our work ethic, as evidenced by our commitment to excellence in supporting institutions and facilities that provide for a quality of life we enjoy today.
Again, without looking to the past, without recognizing our ancestors’ sacrifices and dedication to teach their children the cultural and religious values they believed were important, we cannot truly appreciate what we have and who we are today.
If the only thing that matters is that we move forward, perhaps we have no need to celebrate wedding anniversaries, birthdays, graduations and other important milestones, not to mention the Fourth of July, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving, or —dare I say it? —even Christmas. That would certainly free up extra time to get down to work. However, I cannot imagine proposing such a notion.
Looking back at the first Thanksgiving celebration, the harshness of their existence, mingled with blood, sweat and tears of their labors, even the task of burying a loved one still fresh on their minds, I believe they were in need of a reason to celebrate their place in the new world.
Before moving forward, a time of reflection and celebration, even while mourning the loss of lives, gave them a renewed hope for the future.
So it is for us today as well. We reflect on our heritage. We remind ourselves and our children of its vital role in our lives. We give thanks to our Creator, who presides over all our activities. We celebrate.
May you all have a wonderful experience this Thanksgiving week!