Our opinion: Thanksgiving is a good day to remember


The tale of the first Thanksgiving starts with the harvest celebration of the Pilgrims and the Indians that took place in the autumn of 1623.

As the story goes, the two groups, one invaders in the other's land, put aside their differences and broke bread together to celebrate a harvest of food coming in the midst of a tough year of survival.

The story of that first Thanksgiving, though far removed from what comprises differences and what constitutes hardship in 2014, has many of the same elements of today.

People of different backgrounds still approach each other with some uncertainties. And when the barrier of differences is crossed, people come together for a common good.

That first Thanksgiving for the Pilgrims was in celebration of a bountiful harvest coming after a devastating winter months earlier. The Indians had helped the newcomers to their world survive and had helped teach them how to hunt and grow crops that led to their bounty. History tells us their feast lasted three days.

The charm of that first Thanksgiving story has lessons that remain.

These times are tough for many. Like the Pilgrims braving a new land and struggling with hunger and disease, many people today are faced with rising debt, loss of jobs, illness and not enough money for the food and clothing that their families need.

In our impatience for things to get better, we have become polarized and embraced old habits of mistrust and malevolence toward those different from us.

Our nation and our communities struggle with an atmosphere of divisiveness in government and among groups of people that threatens to overcome any progress we may be making as a human race.

But when disaster strikes, whether as hurricane, blizzard or terrorist attack, we manage to overcome differences and rebuild what is broken.

In today's globally connected environment, an issue in one corner of the world grows to envelope people continents away.

The threat of ISIS spreading violence in the Mideast has caused horror among all civilized nations at the inhuman cruelty seen in the beheadings of innocent people. The virus Ebola has claimed more than 5,000 lives in western Africa and sickened more than 14,000 in the poor nations of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. The humanitarian effort to help the sick in those countries has put others at risk, prompting precautions and heroism in an attempt to contain the disease.

This terrible disease affecting one place has generated a global effort to find a cure and save lives.

And in politics, differences divide the parties, but at the end of the day, both sides want to put the nation first.

Not so different than the Indians and the Pilgrims.

As Thanksgiving showed their coming together, this day can be our coming together.

This can be the day we sit down to our own bounty, whether it is a meal offered at a local church or a family dinner scaled down in size but fulfilling nonetheless.

As we break bread together, we give thanks for surviving what we have survived and achieving what we can achieve. In Brattleboro, the community will gather for a Thanksgiving meal at the Robert H. Gibson River Garden, as it has done for the past four decades, since the Common Ground started the tradition 43 years ago.

This is a free of charge buffet-style dinner where all our welcome to enjoy live music, community company and a prepared meal and is the third year that the Strolling of the Heifers Live will co-sponsor the event.

"We feel that Thanksgiving has gotten swallowed up by many other holidays," said Daniel Kasnitz. "It's an essential holiday, and its intent is great — to meet and be thankful for our friends and community."

Despite our troubles, here in Brattleboro, Windham County and around the world, we are truly blessed.

Despite our differences, we are the same in our basic needs for food, shelter, companionship and purpose.

Those lessons from the first Thanksgiving are with us today, and we should remember that while so many people are going hungry today and so many people are being driven from their homelands by war and violence.

Like our forefathers, let us celebrate the harvest and be thankful together for the bounty we share.


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