Thanksgiving is upon us. And in light of the special day, I hope you will enjoy the story of, The Miracle That Saved America, both literally and figuratively, in many ways. It is the story of a native American, and the Pilgrims.
Many years ago, in the 1600’s, long before the Europeans had really settled in the New World, there was a young man who had been kidnapped by Europeans. His name was, Squanto.
He was taken from his home land and sold into slavery in Spain. While the history account is somewhat vague, we find that after several years, Squanto, miraculously found his way back home.
After all of his struggles and pain, he finally gets back home. When he gets there, to the place where he had lived, he found that everything was gone; his family, his friends, everything … gone.
Historians believe that what happened was, that the people were wiped out, by perhaps a mixture of flood, famine and plague.
Putting ourselves in the position of this young Indian, Squanto, we can undoubtedly, understand how thrilled he would have been to be back home, after all of his struggle. But upon reaching his home, instead of seeing the familiarity of the land, he sees instead, land that is covered, in bones, bones of his people.
Being the sole survivor, he joins with a neighboring tribe. Then years later, another group of Europeans, called Pilgrims, arrive in the new world. But when they arrive, they realize their destination is not the one they sought. While sailing the seas, a storm came up, causing their ship to change direction, as well as confusion. Not knowing what they were doing, they ended up on the homeland of, Squanto.
One of the Pilgrims, William Bradford, wrote about an intention to build their community “on the bones” of the Native American People that had died out before they had gotten there.
While the Pilgrims began settling in this location, known as Plymouth, things didn’t seem to be going their way. And during the winter, many people died. With about a hundred people initially sailing on the Mayflower, by the time winter ended, their numbers were only about fifty.
If we were to put ourselves in their shoes, we might understand that these Pilgrims felt they were doing God’s will and the right thing. You try your best to move forward, and it’s just not working. So, you have to do something. You have to get out of where you are, or everyone is going to die. And, if someone doesn’t help them, death will be a certainty.
But at the close of winter, a miracle happened. A young man came walking into the camp and spoke to them – in English. He came as a messenger, on behalf of Squanto. The young man said to the Pilgrims, “You have to talk to Squanto. He knows English.”
Later, the Pilgrims met with Squanto, who spoke, more or less, fluent English, the result of his life as a slave in Spain and eventually in England. It was a miracle, for the Pilgrims, on many levels. He taught them how to grow corn, and how to survive in the area, which was a miracle in itself. He also saved their lives physically. But there is more. Squanto was the man, who was literally captured by the English and then was sold as a slave. He had every thing taken away from him. Then, the English came back to his homeland, settled on it, and took it all … again.
We have to imagine him, looking at these people, and seeing them, build on the bones of his people. This is a person, who has all the reasons, to respond with hate – to hate the English – and say: “You know what? I’m just going to let them die, like they let my people die.”
But … he didn’t. Instead, he forgave them. And that is a miracle. Because had he not forgiven them, not helped them – this nation wouldn’t exist. And you and I, probably wouldn’t exist. Because, the Pilgrims after surviving the experience – because of Squanto, were able to send communications back to England and say: “We can live here, now.”
And because the migration of Puritans to New England, that is what really sparked it. That is why we celebrate, Thanksgiving and Plymouth Rock and Pilgrims.
We celebrate because of Squanto, because it saved America. If we reflect on the hundreds of years, after the events of Squanto and the Pilgrims, we will be reminded that America was engaged in the Civil War. And it wasn’t just a battle, about states’ rights and slavery or anti-slavery. That was included, but it was also the battle for the soul of America. And the battle for America brings us to ask questions; What does America represent? What kind of country are we?
The argument could be made that the date America started was in Jamestown, Va. and that is the origin story of America. It is also the “commercial” story; a story about growing tobacco, about slavery, about building America as a very commercial enterprise – doing whatever you can, to make money.
But then, you could make the argument, that America began in Plymouth. That was the origin of America. And if you make that case, then you include the story of the Pilgrims and Squanto.
Abraham Lincoln, took that origin story, and said, “This is America.” And that story has become our story as a nation. And he said:
“Let us celebrate Thanksgiving because when the Pilgrims made it through that terrible, horrible winter, they gathered together later and celebrated what we call, The First Thanksgiving.”
While obviously different from what we celebrate now, the idea is very much the same: Gratitude to God; Very grateful to be alive.
And celebrating with people whom we might not agree with, people who you forgive, people whom you embrace and share a table with ... this is what Abe Lincoln put his life on. He literally gave up his life for this idea … of America.
In fact, in his second Inaugural address, he said; “With malice toward none, and charity for all.” And with the engagement of Civil War, wrapping up hatred and rivalries, He said; “Let’s forgive and let it go. And let’s sit down at the table and celebrate our common humanity.”
So, maybe that really is a story saved America.
For the Support of Your Life
For the Many Sides of Life
Original Recording by: Seth Adam Smith
Art by: Paul Gallo
The thoughts and intentions expressed in the Conversant Counselor’s Blog, are those belonging to the author, and do not necessarily reflect those of any other individual or professional.