Bonnie Alba
Hardship results in Thanksgiving
By Bonnie Alba
November 25, 2008

America is facing some perilous times. Confronting a worldwide financial tsunami that will affect us for decades to come, with increasing job losses and rising costs for all products and staples, Americans are tightening their belts. In the background still remains the threat of future radical Islamic extremists' attacks on American soil.

Yet, most Americans will celebrate Thanksgiving despite the uncertainty of the future. And so it was with the small band of people who arrived almost 387 years ago. The first real Thanksgiving was not due to an abundance of food and material things, and the people weren't called consumers.

Hardships and Struggles for Life

It is possible we may find inspiration and promise in the history of Pilgrims who were dedicated to God.

A stormy three-month voyage concluded with the welcome cry from the crow's nest of the Mayflower, "Land ho!" Upon landing at Cape Cod, William Bradford wrote, "Being thus arrived in a good harbor, and brought safe to land, they fell upon their knees and blessed the God of Heaven who had brought them over the vast and furious ocean, and delivered them from all the perils and miseries thereof, again to set their feet on the firm and stable earth, their proper element."

But the trials and struggles to survive were only beginning. During that first winter, as food provisions grew scarce, scurvy and other diseases ravaged their bodies and the death toll increased. By Spring, they had lost husbands, wives and children. When counted, there were only 55 remaining of the original 103 Pilgrims. The new, raw land proved to be a challenge to the human spirit and they found they were less than prepared for it.

From the Spring into Fall of 1621, the Pilgrims planted, fished and hunted learning much from Squanto the Paxtuent Indian who adopted them (Squanto's own story is amazing in itself).

By the Fall, they had reaped and stored enough food provisions to last them through the next winter. Governor Bradford declared a Thanksgiving celebration to God and the Pilgrims welcomed it. Despite their grief they were determined to continue their commitment to God and his direction.

They invited Chief Massasoit of the Wampannoag Indian Tribe who had befriended them. Chief Massasoit and his 90 warriors brought with them plenty of wild turkeys and deer to feed everyone. The celebration turned into three days of prayers, praising God, feasting and playing skill games with their friends.

The Pilgrims relied on the Providence of God yet it's not surprising that some Pilgrims expressed doubt about what they were doing in this wilderness. But their faith was renewed over and over again by God's blessings poured out upon them.

The second winter would also be one of struggle to survive. In November 1621, the ship, the Fortune, dropped off 35 more colonists, but brought them no supplies — no food, no clothing, no tools, no bedding.

With 35 extra mouths to feed and no extra supplies, the Pilgrims had to ration their food. It was a season of starvation. They were finally reduced to a daily ration of five kernels of corn a piece. Not one died. This is difficult for most of us to imagine in today's America of plenty.

The Pilgrims trusted God — even when their faith was shaken. They probably knew well these biblical verses, "Suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope." (Romans 5:3-4)

By their example, we should be thankful to God for the roof over our heads and, whether we have little or much, for the food on our tables.

I hope you will reflect on this historic story of the Pilgrims' struggle to survive through their faith in God. This has been the connecting thread that runs through all the generations of American lives since that precarious beginning.

The challenges we face in today's America may be different but have much to do with our faith in God and our thankfulness for his blessings on our nation.

Are you thankful? Is Thanksgiving just one of feasting on turkey and all the trimmings? To whom are you thankful? Do we take everything we have for granted?

We will never go wrong praying to God for his help and strength to bring us through whatever challenges are facing us.

May we bless God on this day and every day for his bountiful mercy.

Happy Thanksgiving!

© Bonnie Alba


The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
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Bonnie Alba

(Editor's note: Bonnie Alba passed away on February 12, 2017. You can read her obituary here.)

Bonnie Alba is a "politically incorrect" researcher-writer. Since 1995, her articles have appeared in California newspapers. Previously she served in various Department of Defense positions for over 16 years... (more)


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