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For Thanksgiving Day: “We often wish you partakers of our plenty”

November 16, 2011

“First there’s the children’s house of make-believe,  / Some shattered dishes underneath pines. . . . / Weep for what little things could make them glad.”  –lines from “Directive” by Robert Frost

There are two places called Campicello, one in Italy (as you’d expect) and one here in Madison County, Virginia. Ours looks westward from the ridge along the Hebron Valley to the mountains. The highest peak in the northern Blue Ridge, Hawksbill—its swoop is like the curve of a hawk’s beak (as you’d expect)—lies in the distance. On hazy days the mountains seem far far away, a dreamy unreachable place. When the air clears after a storm or on a crisp November morning, it all comes much closer. Then you see that you are in the midst of this Shangri-la already. Driving through the Valley on my way to church last Sunday—the broad green fields, the cattle (why do they graze pointed in the same direction?), the rocky, rushing river, and beyond, the mountains silhouetted one upon another—it’s easy to think you’ve died and gone to heaven already.

The early settlers from Germany named this valley after the home of the patriarchs Abraham and Isaac, in Palestine, probably because it was the place to which they too had migrated and made their home. Hebron is more ancient and, to many, more sacred than Jerusalem itself. It’s tomb of the Patriarchs is part shrine and part mosque. Passing through the security cages, a few years ago, we found ourselves in an armed citadel of the Israeli occupation. For Christians, as for Jews and Muslims, Abraham is the father of faith in the one God. When brothers and sisters in faith imagine themselves enemies the consequences are tragic. But here in Madison County all this seems far far away. No, we are not enemies.

The story of the Pilgrims coming to “the new world” and encountering the native Americans almost four hundred years ago is a familiar one, and leaves us uneasy about the way Europeans, “undocumented aliens” if ever there were such, displaced the native peoples. Here in Virginia we hear little of those who inhabited this valley before those first settlers, or indeed I myself, came here. They too left behind shattered dishes, now buried under old pines. Thanksgiving Day calls us to do what we can, today, to come together in a new and more hopeful community, living at peace, sharing whatever plenty is at hand. This modest hope is not different from what people of good will have sought in every circumstance and every age. Here are the words that attest to “the first Thanksgiving,” a letter from one of the Pilgrims to a friend in England.

“Loving and old friend,

“. . .In this little time we have built seven dwelling houses; and four for the use of the Plantation; and have made preparation for diverse others. “We set, last Spring, some twenty acres of Indian corn. Our corn did prove well, and, God be praised, we had a good increase of Indian corn; and our barley was indifferently good; but our peas not worth the gathering; for we feared they were too late sown. They came up very well, and blossomed: but the sun parched them in the blossom.

“Our harvest being gotten in, our Governor sent four men on fowling; that so we might, after a more special manner, rejoice together, after we had gathered the fruit of our labours. They four, in one day, killed as much fowl as, with a little help besides, served the Company almost a week. At which time, amongst other recreations, we exercised our Arms; many of the Indians coming amongst us.

“And, amongst the rest, their greatest King, Massasoyt, with some ninety men; whom for three days, we entertained and feasted. And they went out, and killed five deer: which they brought to the Plantation: and bestowed on our Governor, and upon the Captain and others.

“And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us; yet, by the goodness of God, we are so far from want, that we often wish you partakers of our plenty. . . . Commending you to the Lord, for a safe conduct unto us:

“Resting in him,  Your loving friend, E. W. [Edward Winslow]

“Plymouth in New England, This 11th of December, 1621”

Weep for what little things could make them glad.    –GKB

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. November 17, 2011 9:15 am

    Brother David teaches that graditude is the first step on a spiritual path.
    Aristotle teaches that courage is the first of all virtues, because no other virture can be accomplished without courage.

    Thanks to Brother Kim for showing us the courage to Lift up our eyes unto the Hills.

    take time to walk
    take time to listen
    take time to be silent
    take time to see
    take time to savour
    take time to hug
    take time to be.

    take time to say THANKS to life and to your friends.

    HAPPY THANKS GIVING. richard

  2. November 17, 2011 9:17 am

    Brother David teaches that gratitude is the first step on a spiritual path.
    Aristotle teaches that courage is the first of all virtues, because no other virture can be accomplished without courage.

    Thanks to Brother Kim for showing us the courage to Lift up our eyes unto the Hills.

    take time to walk
    take time to listen
    take time to be silent
    take time to see
    take time to savour
    take time to hug
    take time to be.

    take time to say THANKS to life and to your friends.

    HAPPY THANKS GIVING. richard

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