Western Article
Pilgrims and Pioneers
Scott Gese

This is the time of year when people write, think and talk about giving thanks. I won’t let this holiday pass without putting in my two cents worth.

Historically, “Thanksgiving” in the U.S. started with the pilgrims in 1621. It was a three-day event celebrating a good harvest.

Traditionally, Thanksgiving began in 1863 when President Lincoln proclaimed “Thanksgiving Day” but it wasn’t declared a legal holiday until 1941.

Some would consider the pilgrims our countries first refugees. In 1620 they left their homes in Europe due to religious persecution.

They said goodbye to family and friends as they sailed off across a vast ocean in relatively small wooden ships to seek a better life. Once here, they found the conditions harsh. Within one year 46 of the original 102 pilgrims had died.

The First ThanksgivingThe First Thanksgiving

Some of the Native Americans were friendly and helped them through that first grueling year, but by 1676 the pilgrims had begun referring to the Indians as “Heathen” natives.

I think the pilgrims could also be considered pioneers, as they were the first non-native settlers opening the way for others to follow. There are stark similarities between the pilgrims who settled the east coast and the pioneers who settled the west…

They both left their homes for a better life.
Some left due to religious persecution.
They left behind friends and family.
They traveled across a vast expanse in small wooden wagons/ships.
The conditions were harsh and many died along the way.
Some of the Native Americans were friendly. Some were not.
The Indians were referred to as “Heathens.”

Pioneers on the trail west

So what does all of this have to do with Thanksgiving anyhow?

I’m sure both Pilgrims and Pioneers were offering up prayers of thanks all along the voyage/trail. Thank you for the opportunity for a new life. Thank you for getting me through another day. Thank you for keeping our boat from sinking or our wagon from breaking down. Thank you for the friends I’ve made along the way. Thank you for keeping me, and my family safe.

I’m sure you can think of many other things they were thankful for.

These days as always, Thanksgiving is a day to step back from our hectic lives and consider the things we have and the things we're thankful for as individuals and as a Nation.

In my opinion, giving thanks is something we should all be doing on a daily basis, not just one day a year.

And, as we consider our blessings and give thanks for them, we should also consider taking an action step to help those who are less fortunate than ourselves. To give back a portion of what has been so graciously given to us is an honorable thing to do.

We have so much more than our pioneer ancestors ever dreamed of. Yet THEY were some of the most giving people in our Nations history. Their hearts were not hard toward their neighbor. They didn’t hide from each other behind privacy fences. They helped a neighbor in need. They were thankful for what they had and they willingly shared with those who needed a helping hand. They didn’t turn away from their neighbors who were truly in need they turned toward them.

Here is my concern.

These days too many of us see Thanksgiving as nothing more than a couple days off from work, a big meal at mom’s house and an afternoon of watching football. Maybe an obligatory prayer over more food than we could possibly eat, but that’s it. No thought of truly giving thanks for the blessed moments of our lives or our standing amongst the people of this world. Did you know that from the poorest to the richest, we are in the top five percent of the wealthiest people on this planet! How blessed we are. But yet, right here on our own doorstep there are still those who are truly in need.

As individuals and as a Nation, I wonder if we aren’t losing our hard earned pioneer spirit?

I hope not.

This Thanksgiving and throughout the Christmas season…
In all you do Give Thanks for all you have, and help a neighbor in need.

Have a wonderful Holiday season.