Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of the year. It is the one holiday that has, for the most part, not been commercialized by our society. Thanksgiving is a time to celebrate the reaping and harvest of the previous season. It is a time to reflect and remember all that we have and have been given. It is a time to welcome others to our table as Christ welcomes us to His table; family, foe, and stranger. Thanksgiving is more than gratitude, it is ‘giftitude’; it is about ‘thanksgifting’ back from all that we have been given.
On the eve of this great American holiday, I am reminded of my childhood patriotized education, about how the Pilgrims and Native Americans ate their corn and turkey, about how these two groups worked, ate, and celebrated together. I am reminded that the land we build upon is a gift from our forefathers who eventually seized the land from a people who respected the land and water, as if it had rights too.
I am reminded that my small town, Papillion, used to have a creek that flowed with crystal clear water that provided ice in winter for the community, a place to ice skate, a place to gather. But now, the creek that once bubbled over with life is a muddy drainage way for street, suburban concrete, and chemical farmland runoff. What was once respected, loved, and cherished has now been forgotten and replaced with a consumerism that more is better. Where once people lived with the land, people now live above it.
This Thanksgiving, let us remember our family members, let us celebrate with those who have come from a distance to join us. Let us remember those in North Dakota fighting to protect all of our water and give thanks for them. And in giving thanks begin to remember that this land is not ours, but only a gift. May our apathy towards the tyranny that threatens to exchange our most valuable resources for quick energy, oil, and consumption that will never be quenched be turned to a compassion that can heal our broken hearts and land.
I will leave you with a poem written about my town, around 1900 by Dr. William Upjohn, M.D. remembering his town Papillion, over 100 years ago.
On either side of Papillion stream,
Where the low winds sigh and the sun-rays gleam,
A few small cottages are nestled down,
Forming what we call Papillion town,
But a few years have passed away
Since the white man’s feet this way did stray,
And many now remember well
The red man that here were wont to dwell.
Now all are gone; like the leaves that fall…
Trampled on and forgotten by all.
In place of the wigwams, houses stand,
And white man tills the Indian’s land.
The pretty squaws of which legend tells
Are replaced by prettier pale-face belles.
The pow-wow, dear to every brave,
Is now conducted by our lawyers suave.
Schools and churches now have we
In Papillion village, fair to see;
And the railroad trains go rushing through
Fleeter than Indian horse or canoe.
Never more will Indian paddles quiver
Over the narrow, swift-flowing river.
And instead of the savage war-cry
The white mother sings a lullaby.