Next Thursday we mark the 150th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's wish for us to gather around the dinner table as a nation to share in a meal of giving thanks. In the time of Gettysburg, by declaring Thanksgiving our third national holiday alongside Independence Day and Washington's Birthday, Lincoln was reminding us of where we came from and of the core values all Americans share. As a cook I can't help but love the notion that the revolution of 1776 may have given us independence, yet the ideals of America were not born out of war but instead come from a meal shared across cultures.
Lincoln knew that the story of America began long before our Declaration of Independence and that our work as a nation was in no way finished by the signing of our Constitution. Thanksgiving is a celebration of pilgrims and Native Americans; a reminder of the incredible kindness of the Wampanoag people toward the new arrivals from Europe. With the victory at Gettysburg, Lincoln could begin to look past the war and commence work on the healing that would need to come. For Lincoln, the first national Thanksgiving Holiday was the start of that healing.
Though next week Thursday is Thanksgiving, November 19th was the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address. Please take a moment to read it.(http://www.abrahamlincolnonline.org/lincoln/speeches/gettysburg.htm)
No other words in our history so clearly and so succinctly and so beautifully define the values of our nation. As much as Lincoln's address is about acknowledging the fallen, it is also a call to action for the living to honor those who gave all to keep this nation together by rededicating ourselves to the equality of all the peoples of our country; that in our nation's dedication to the proposition that all are created equal there will always be unfinished work to be done. It is a timeless message.
So please give thought to the original Thanksgiving and the kindness of the Wampanoag people toward the outsiders that arrived upon their land. Give thought to Lincoln and his hopes to heal a divided nation through sharing a meal of thanks. And give thought to what a nation where all are truly equal would look like. In our own divided times it can seem like big actions are what's needed, but I really think it is the small ones that make the most difference. This Thanksgiving bring a dish to pass, share a smile and give thanks!
Adapted from Penzey Spices