The past few years have been extraordinarily odd. We have been isolated, scared and unable to connect with people as we are used to. This is slowly changing, and I am grateful that we are beginning to make more human connections. This Thanksgiving, I am particularly thankful for my family, close friends and those who share my passion to make our community a better place for all. I thank God for blessings, and for challenges that turn into blessings after they are met. This has been true throughout our history.
For example, we can go back 401 years to thank the Pilgrims, who fled religious persecution in England in 1620. After enduring delays in setting sail, the loss of a ship and the deaths of many during their journey across the ocean, they first sighted land on Nov. 9. This meant that they would soon be on land. William Brewster led the Pilgrims in the reading of Psalm 100:
"Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands.
Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing.
Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.
For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations."
The Pilgrims celebrated Thanksgiving on land a year later. They had endured a harsh winter. Only about half of those who had begun the journey were still among the living, but they nevertheless paused after their harvest to thank God. The Wampanoag Indians joined them. The Indians traveled for several days, set up their own camp and stayed for three days of feasting and celebration.
The holiday received official status in 1789, with George Washington's first presidential proclamation, which designated the 26th day of November to be set aside for thanksgiving. "It is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God and to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor," Washington wrote.
For decades afterward, states set aside different dates to celebrate Thanksgiving. It took the persistent efforts of Sarah Josepha Hale to get the nation as a whole to observe Thanksgiving on the same day.