Wouldn’t it be wonderful this Thanksgiving if our leaders could get together, put their differences aside and work together? There is an historical precedent, and I’ll share it with you today, next on BreakPoint.
You can't turn on the TV these days without seeing the sides lined up, prepared for battle: Republicans versus Democrats, Tea partiers versus tax raisers, Occupy Wall Street versus — well, everybody. And so far they’ve given us no indication they're ever going to agree on anything, never mind solving the problems of this country.
But as John Murray wrote in a marvelous Wall Street Journal column, Thanksgiving is a reminder that people of very different backgrounds can join together to solve life-and-death problems.
Murray, headmaster of Fourth Presbyterian School in Maryland and one of our Centurions graduates, paints the scene: The year was 1621, and the people were the Pilgrims and two memorable Indians, Samoset and Squanto. And it may surprise you to learn that it was the Indian Squanto who truly exemplified the words of St. Paul: To overcome evil with good.
As every school child should know, the Pilgrims’ trip to the New World was extremely difficult. Once they arrived, things got worse. Nearly half of them died that first winter, leaving the other half wondering if it wouldn’t be better to return to the Old World.
But something happened that spring to make them decide to stay. As Pilgrim Governor William Bradford wrote in his journal, in the middle of March, 1621, “a certain Indian came boldly among them and spoke to them in broken English, [and] told them of another Indian whose name was Squanto...who had been in England and could speak better English than himself.” Squanto acted as their interpreter with the local Indian tribes, and, Bradford wrote, “was a special instrument sent of God for their good beyond their expectation.”
Why would Bradford think that Squanto's help was “beyond their expectation?” Perhaps because many years before, Squanto had been kidnapped by Spaniards and taken to Europe to be sold as a slave. But as John Murray writes in his column, “Providentially, Squanto was purchased by a group of Catholic friars who taught him about the Bible and Jesus Christ in preparation to send him back to America to be a missionary among his tribe.”
Squanto eventually made his way back to America, where he found that his entire tribe had died of disease. And soon after that, he met up with the Pilgrims. Squanto taught them local farming and fishing practices, using his knowledge of both English and Indian languages. He helped negotiate a peace between the Pilgrims and nearby Indian tribes.
Thanks in part to Squanto, the Pilgrims reaped a generous harvest in the fall of 1621. And in order to thank God for saving them, and for providing life-saving help from their neighbors, they held a three-day feast of thanksgiving to God, to which they invited their Indian friends.
As for Squanto, Murray writes, “Considering the trials of his own life, it would have been understandable for Squanto to sow bitterness and seek war against the Pilgrims. Instead, his generosity and forgiveness enabled their survival.” He lived out the words of Paul, overcoming evil with good.
Nearly 400 years later, are we willing to emulate Squanto's attitude, to stop fighting and start working together for our mutual good? Now that would be something to really be thankful for.
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