Happy Thanksgiving to all of the #eyeronvision family!
I’m not breaking any new ground on stating that 2020 has been one of the most challenging years across the board in a long time. From a pandemic, to social, political and economic tensions we’ve seen so many things thrown our way. Some we’ve handled, others we continue to work on, and others we’ve pushed aside or failed to address.
2020 is often seen as perfect, clear, or excellent eyesight. We always say hindsight is 2020. I wonder if the year 2020 will change that expression… Maybe, maybe not. Nevertheless, this year has been far from perfect, excellent or clear for anyone.
But in this season of Thanksgiving we still have much to be thankful for. But rather than list out all of the things I’m thankful for this year I want to take a short trip back through time.
In 1620 a group of Puritan Christians left England and sales across the Atlantic Ocean to settle at Plymouth Massachusetts. Over th course of that first year they struggled with raising crops, defending their settlement from who they took for hostile Native Americans, and generally struggled to stay alive from other factors such as sickness.
In 1605, a Native American named Tisquantum was captured and brought back to England. He learned English and eventually returned to North America to serve as a guide and interpreter for English colonists before he was captured by rival English settlers and sold into slavery in Spain. He eventually escaped back to North America only to find his tribe wiped out by smallpox. He took up residence with another tribe and in the winter of 1620-1621 he met those same Puritan Pilgrims. Due to his knowledge of their language and culture he was able to act as an interpreter and mediator between the pilgrims and the Chief of the tribe he’d been adopted into. Additionally he began helping the Pilgrims with farming and fishing techniques that would allow them to survive in their new home.
In the fall of 1621, the Pilgrims and Native Americans came together to celebrate a festival of Thanks for the first truly successful harvest of the settlement of Plymouth. Thanks was given to God, The Spirits, the land, the leadership of both the Pilgrims and Native Americans, to Tisquantum, and many more people and things.
The celebration continued off and on for the next 200 years, sometimes being celebrated, sometimes not until Abraham Lincoln declared it a Federal Holiday in 1863, Ulysses Grant signed it into Law in 1870, and Congress passed it as a Federal Payed Holiday in 1885.
Today we generally celebrate Thanksgiving by gathering with friends and family over food, drink and conversation. We list things that we are thankful for—health, life, happiness, God, food, etc.
This year, 399 years after that first Thanksgiving celebration, we’re still trying to understand what Thanksgiving really means. Is it a day of gluttony? A day that we list off everything we’re thankful for? A day for prayer? Everyone has their own interpretation of Thanksgiving and what it means to them. Everyone has their own ways of celebrating this holiday and time of year.
I can’t help but look back at the story of Thanksgiving and see so many parallels to today. Aren’t we still struggling to get along with our neighbors? Aren’t we still trying to fight for survival in different ways? I look at that first Thanksgiving and notice how two groups struggled side-by-side for survival but somehow came together to celebrate their commonalities and differences.
In today’s world we exaggerate those things that make us different on social media. We fight with our neighbors over politics, economics, and social responsibility. At the end of the day, aren’t these the same issues the Native Americans and Pilgrims fought over?
So for this Thanksgiving, let’s definitely remember all the things we’re truly grateful for. I’m truly thankful for a family that supports me in my crazy endeavors. I’m thankful that my immediate family all live in the same state and that I am able to spend this very important holiday with them. I’m thankful for the opportunities afforded me as an Elite Paratriathlete getting to live and train our of the Olympic and Paralympic Training Center. I’m thankful for my teammates ranging from my guides, to coaches, to training partners, etc. I’m thankful that I live in the greatest country on earth where I have the power to choose my own destiny as long as I’m willing to work hard to achieve that destiny. And yes, I’m thankful for all the hard times and events that have brought me to today. Whether that be going blind, being unemployed, having friends, colleagues, and acquaintances whose views differ (sometimes quite radically) from my own. I’m thankful for it all because it means I’m still here, alive, and continuing to try and grow into whoever I’m meant to be. When I stop being thankful for it all I’ll be worse than dead.
What are you thankful for? Who are you thankful for? Are you thankful for the good, the bad, and the ugly? (Yes dad, I’m even thankful for my bad hairline and big nose that you like to make fun of LOL.)
Today let’s remember what Thanksgiving means to each of us. Celebrate your family, friends, colleagues, neighbors, allies, enemies, frenemies, health, wealth, happiness, sadness, frustration… Shoot celebrate a pumpkin spiced latte if you want. And if you can’t be with those you want to celebrate with in person, find a way to celebrate together virtually via phone, social media, Zoom, Facetime, Skype, Google Hangouts, Whatsapp, anyway you can. Embrace everything this Holiday means to everyone.
Once again, Happy Thanksgiving!