“Brother Garcia,” Said Brother Martin with a smile, “I think we have time for another story. As a history teacher, you probably have quite a few of those. Would you mind sharing one?”The young school teacher nodded, thought a moment, and then agreed, saying,
“As most of you know, I am a newcomer to this country, but I have long wanted to be an American, so I studied your history very carefully. I believe I shall tell you a story of some other immigrants, newcomers to America a long, long time ago…
“I came by bus, but these travelers many centuries ago, came by ship. Their journey was long, hard, and sometimes dangerous, but finally they landed in the middle of December. The place where they landed had no homes or hotels where they could live, and so at first they lived in the small ship they had sailed across the ocean in, as their home.
“The men went ashore every morning, to work, returning to the little ship, at night. They built a ‘common house’ where they took the sick and dying to take better care of them than they could on the ship, which still moved from to side in the sea; and finally they built two rows of houses, with a wide street between; and lastly landed their stores and provisions. This took nearly four months, so they were not able to send the ship away until April, but at last, the Mayflower sailed away.”
There was a murmur of recognition in his audience, and he smiled at them, “Yes, you recognize my story, at least some of you- I am telling of the Pilgrims, which seemed a fitting story to tell on this, my first Thanksgiving in my new country.”
He continued, “Whereas I was able to come to this country with a job awaiting me, and there were houses or at least rooms available for rent, food for me to buy, and a church family waiting to welcome me, things were not so easy for these Pilgrims. Their winter had been a hard and bitter one. At one time all but six or seven of the Pilgrims were sick; and by the spring, half of them had died- and they were not a large group to begin with. The story is told that they had to ration their food so severely that for some time, each person had only five kernels of corn to eat each day.
“They had made friends with some local Indians- and that, I must tell you is another amazing story all on its own, but I do not wish to take too long telling my story, so I shall skip it- but sometime, you must read about Somoset, Squanto, and the great chief Massasoit, and their kind hospitality. With their help the Pilgrims survived the spring, had seed to plant, and learned the ways of hunting, planting, and harvesting in their new country.
“At last it was time to Harvest, and Governor Bradford ordered a three days’ feast and celebration for all the Pilgrims, as well as Chief Massasoit and their other Indian friends, and they thanked God for caring for them through the hard winter and asked His protection for the future.
“That was the first Thanksgiving as we know it in this land. The Pilgrims would have other years of weak harvests and hard winters, but through it all, they believed: Blessed be the Lord who daily loadeth us with benefits.”
Brother Garcia sat down, smiling as the group thanked him for the story- and looked thoughtfully at the table, still groaning with uneaten food.
“When I was a girl….” Began snowy haired “Grammar Kate,” as every one had called her for the last forty years, “My father told us about the five kernels of corn every Thanksgiving…”