With shouts of praise to God, the Pilgrims from Scrooby Village in England came ashore at New Plymouth in 1620. The able bodied ones knelt on the snow covered rocky ground and gave thanks for their completion of their stormy voyage across the Atlantic.
Others, weakened by sickness, lay on pallets reciting Psalms and singing hymns.
A few moths later, half of the Pilgrim company was dead from exposure and disease.
But the remainder rallied and carried on. Their first permanent building was an assembly house for meetings of the church and the elected general court. Prayers were always offered at the opening of court and before voting on any important issue.
Though they endured many hardships, they learned to be thankful for daily blessings and this led to celebrating their first harvest with a feast of thanksgiving. The Pilgrims could have pouted about their privations and problems. Instead, they chose to thank God for the blessings He had given.
More than one hundred years after the Pilgrims had set the example, President George Washington issued the following Thanksgiving Proclamation:
"WHEREAS it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly implore His protection and favors
"Now, THEREFORE, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th of November next, to be devoted by the people of these states to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the Beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks."
It is important to note that both the expressions of thanksgiving by the Pilgrims and of George Washington came following times of great distress: the struggle of that first difficult year by the Pilgrims and the rigors of the Revolutionary War by Washington.
Tough times made them thankful.
But there is another dimension to this story that is often overlooked: their thankful hearts enabled them to endure tough times triumphantly.
A thankful heart is powerful.
Depression departs from thankful hearts.
A thankful heart can heal a troubled marriage.
A thankful heart turns one from pouting to praising.
A thankful heart can overcome fears about the future.
A thankful heart can dissolve doubts and eliminate cynicism.
The well known author of Christian classics, A.W. Tozer, wrote: "Now as a cure for the sour, faultfinding attitude I recommend the cultivation of the habit of thankfulness.
Thanksgiving has great curative power. The heart that is constantly overflowing with gratitude will be safe from those attacks of resentfulness and gloom that bother so many.
A thankful heart cannot be cynical."
In counting our blessings, we can change our lives and the lives of those we love.
Roger Campbell is an author, columnist and broadcaster who was a pastor for 22 years.
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