Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Lessons Learned, Taught

The fourth Thursday in November has been set aside as a day of national reflection and reckoning for nearly four hundred years. Delegates to the First Continental Congress saw fit to make mention of an observance of gratitude in 1777 and the U.S. Constitution adopted in 1789 made Thanksgiving Day an official national holiday.

Our modern Thanksgiving celebration is more about the elaborate spreads of turkey and stuffing surrounded by various ethnic dishes from Greek dolmathes to Chinese noodles. The first celebrations were somewhat less sumptuous!

History books suggest the very first “thanks giving” observation was in 1619 at the Berkeley Plantation in Virginia. Thirty-eight English settlers took a day off from swatting flies and mosquitos - the plantation was located about twenty miles upstream from Jamestown along the James River - to celebrate their arrival one year earlier. Their charter called for such a gathering and most likely they were a grateful lot considering the challenges they must have faced in the low, swampy marshland they chose as their new home. Perhaps at the end of the day they were praying what has become an established real estate mantra “location, location, location.”

The Pilgrims at Plymouth, Massachusetts held a “thanks giving day” in the fall of 1621 to celebrate their first harvest. We are fortunate there was plenty of wild game, like the turkey pictured above. Otherwise we could be gearing up for Squanto Day in honor of the Indian interpreter and sometimes agriculture extension agent who came to the rescue of the starving settlers. Squanto helped manage public relations with the locals and taught Pilgrims some basic farming skills appropriate for the North American continent - fish fertilizer and planting cycles.

Yes, there is plenty to be grateful for on this Thanksgiving Day - lessons learned and lessons taught.

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