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The Thanksgiving Story: Vulnerability and Courage

November 25, 2013
David in the back yard in bleak Vermont

When you read the word stories next to the names of festivals or holidays, there are usually very specific images that follow. “Christmas Stories," “Easter Stories," “Halloween Stories," even “Presidents Day Stories” all have real images attached to the words. We immediately recall moments of movies or books, or historical moments that fill out the idea of a ‘story’ attached to the festival and give it instant context. “Thanksgiving Story” certainly has all of these, but this past weekend I was given an image that put all the others into question.

We all have the image of the Pilgrims and Native Americans meeting and feasting together. We imagine all the local food being prepared and the immense gratitude from the Pilgrims as they tried to make their way in this new world.

But what many of us don’t realize is that this spirited group of Pilgrims left reasonably comfortable lives in England to come this unknown world in search of religious freedom. They packed themselves into a single boat – a small boat big enough for the 100 to sit side by side. No room for strolling or moving about – just sitting in your place for days and days. So here’s the thing: half of them didn’t make it. Half of them died.

That changes things a little. Half is a lot. A lot. They arrive with half their number – in November – in New England – needing to build houses and find food. November. New England. If you are in New England right now, go outside and you can get the idea.

So now when we picture the Native Americans that came to give the newly arrived Pilgrims food and advice, we can really understand their gratitude. Serious gratitude. They were grateful for not only the food and advice – they were grateful to be alive.

But that isn’t the image – not entirely. The image I received from the weekend was that of a New England tree in November. Imagine an oak or maple or birch in November. Empty of leaves. Still. Cold. Vulnerable. And yet – enduring, strong – brave.

The trees, like the Pilgrims, were open to the elements without any protective leaves covering them – warming them. They were naked and cold. Vulnerable. And yet, they endured. They were helped by others and then they helped themselves. Vulnerability and Courage.

And, of course, Thanks-giving.

For some of our stories of Gratitude and Thanksgiving, you can visit this page. Happy Thanksgiving!

About the Author

David Sewell McCann

Story Spinner

David Sewell McCann fell in love with spinning stories in first grade – the day a storyteller came to his class and captured his mind and imagination. He has been engaged in storytelling all of his adult life through painting, film-making, teaching and performing. Out of his experience as a Waldorf elementary class teacher and parent, he has developed a four step method of intuitive storytelling, which he now shares through workshops and through this website.

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