A Time for Thanks, a Time for Giving

Like the Wampanoag tribe that helped the Pilgrims in the first Thanksgiving over 400 years ago, all of us can help someone who needs it.
A Time for Thanks, a Time for Giving
Traditions like Thanksgiving dinner create precious memories as well as wonderful food. (Rawpixel.com/Shutterstock)
James Gorrie

We live in uncertain times.

That’s probably the understatement of the year.

Life Is More Difficult These Days

The things we’ve taken for granted for so long, such as safe schools, abundant and healthy food, high-quality and affordable health care, and a government that can be trusted, are no longer a given. What’s more, excess deaths are way up, in part related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
And speaking of COVID-19, 80 percent of Americans are worse off than they were before the pandemic. For many, savings are depleted, and debt payments are higher due to rising interest rates. The abundance that Americans have known is no longer there. More than 60 percent of American adults are living paycheck to paycheck, and inflation is forcing millions to choose between paying for medicine or utilities.
We’re also seeing a growing underclass of homeless people, young people succumbing to drugs and detachment from their families. In our age of instant communication with the whole world, a recent study showed that one-third of Americans feel lonelier than ever before. That irony is only surpassed by its sadness.

Further afield, after decades of relative stability, the world has become unsettled, destabilized, and more dangerous than in living memory for many. The wars in Israel and Ukraine are top of mind, but so are global inflation and nascent food shortages.

There are, of course, a variety of reasons for all of these problems and situations. But it’s important to understand that this isn’t the first time that we as a people have faced difficult and uncertain circumstances.

A Thanksgiving Prayer Answered

At the time of the first Thanksgiving in Plymouth Colony in 1621, there was plenty of uncertainty to go around. Arriving just the year before, half of the Pilgrims were already dead. Imagine the despair of the 50 or so remaining Pilgrims. How would they survive another winter without enough food to keep them alive?
Many of their family members and friends had been taken from them less than a year earlier. But even in the face of great loss, uncertainty, and hardship, as devout believers in God, the Pilgrims prayed for deliverance.
Unexpectedly, the Wampanoag Confederacy of tribes, or the “People of the First Light” (those who were first to see the sunrise), decided to help them survive. But it wasn’t entirely out of charity. They did so out of mutual interest, too.

The Wampanoag tribe wanted and needed the Pilgrims’ help in defending themselves against attacks from some aggressive tribes in the area. They taught the remaining Pilgrims the best techniques for hunting, planting crops, and how to get the most out of each, which would make the difference between survival and starvation for the newly arrived Europeans.

After a bountiful harvest and excellent hunting, the colonists celebrated with about 90 tribe members in a three-day feast of eating, giving thanks joyously, and prayer. Undoubtedly, the Pilgrims regarded the Wampanoag as the divine answer to their prayers.

That may just be what the first Thanksgiving was truly about. For the Pilgrims, it wasn’t about domination or material goods. Rather, it was about survival and thanking their Creator for the blessing that the Wampanoag tribe’s actions most certainly were.

For the Wampanoag, the first Thanksgiving was all about not being dominated, killed, or enslaved by others. Each group had their own reasons for giving thanks, and did so joyously with the other.

Helping Others Helps Everyone

Is that too simplistic for us living in America in 2023?

It may seem so. Life is more complex today than ever before. But, human needs remain the same.

The tragedy of losing a family member, by whatever means, is magnified during the holidays. It’s a void that’s simply unfillable. The stress of financial difficulty can be overwhelming, as well. So is the loneliness of a person without a family or friends, or even a place to call home. These are the emotional places of despair in which many people are finding themselves this Thanksgiving.

But, like the Wampanoag tribe that helped the Pilgrims in the first Thanksgiving over 400 years ago, all of us can help someone who needs it. You could say that it’s our defense against the aggressive self-indulgences that we all have, which threaten to dominate our minds and enslave our hearts.

By helping others, we help ourselves as well. It’s part of who we are and doing so makes us all the better for it. That’s not just an idle notion, but a scientific and medical fact. Helping others brings the giver better mental and physical health and longevity. It’s also a Judeo-Christian precept that preceded the science by millennia.

Gratitude Is the Antidote to Despair

Therefore, in this season of giving, let us give thanks and be grateful for what we do have, and not despair for what we don’t. Let us who can, take the time to help those of us who need it. After all, we all need a human connection, and now is a good time to do good.

No politics, no agenda, and no condemnation are necessary. But a meal, a coat, a word, a hug, or a handshake can make all the difference in another person’s day or even life.

It will certainly make a difference in yours and mine.

History, science, and God all point us toward giving to others, lest we all fall into despair.

Views expressed in this article are opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.
James R. Gorrie is the author of “The China Crisis” (Wiley, 2013) and writes on his blog, TheBananaRepublican.com. He is based in Southern California.
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