Unlike some other countries that have a Thanksgiving Day, the American Thanksgiving (celebrated today) is one of the biggest holidays of the year. Sadly, the day has become less about thanksgiving and much more about family gatherings, turkey and pumpkin pie, football games and shopping for Christmas. The origins are traced to early settlers–the Pilgrims—and Indians, now known as “native Americans.” Over the decades, Pilgrims have been lauded as the source of traditional American values, beliefs in individual freedom, ideal family relationships, various religious practices, and a host of modern (often conflicting) political perspectives. Most famous is the first thanksgiving dinner when the Pilgrims and Indians ate together. Is all of this true?
Highly unlikely, according to a recent book by Wheaton History professor Robert Tracy McKenzie. The First Thanksgiving: The Real Story About Loving God and Learning from History employs the skills of a distinguished historian to show how easily we distort or overlook the facts of history, use our distorted perceptions as support for modern values or politics, and build fanciful stories around events that probably never happened. For example, the first thanksgiving meal, if there was one, didn’t look like our modern depictions. The Pilgrims were poor, struggling, and probably dressed in shabby clothes (no top hats and shoes with buckles.) There probably was little emphasis on worship with their guests. There was “fowl” but probably water birds like geese that were easier to catch than wild turkeys. It’s unlikely that there were tables, chairs or silverware. Eaters would have sat on the ground and used their fingers. There was no pumpkin pie because there were no ovens. There may not have been invitations sent to the Indians. They had a habit of dropping by for food so they may have come on their own. McKenzie adds that probably there was tension since neither side trusted the other.
How does this relate to counseling, coaching or leadership? Perhaps this:
- In working with people, don’t jump to conclusions about the present based on questionable stories about the past.
- Keep focused on facts, including the evidence from history and the guidelines of Scripture.
- Remember how all of us can build our lives and work on presuppositions and data that is of debatable validity.
What else? Please leave a comment. And have a Happy Thanksgiving.