I wish you and your family a Happy Thanksgiving. In our family, it is a time for us to gather
together and recognize the blessings we receive. Like many, we over-eat all the great food that
we are able to share, and enjoy the camaraderie of those we love.
In 1863, during the depth of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national
Thanksgiving Day to be held each November. In his proclamation, Lincoln asked all Americans
to ask God to “commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans,
mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife” and to “heal the wounds of the nation.”
Before that time, individual states (and earlier still colonies) held their own days of thanksgiving.
As school children we all learned about the autumn of 1621 when the Pilgrims and the Indians
shared an abundant harvest. But, there’s another lesson to be learned from the Pilgrims’ early
As the settlers established their community, they set aside all the farming lands in common. All
would work the fields and all would share the harvest. After the first two years, the colony was
facing starvation. Why? Because there was no incentive for people to work hard in the fields –
it didn’t matter how hard one worked, each member of the colony received the same share of the
harvest. The colonists met to decide what to do.
A solution was reached wherein each family would be allotted a parcel and could manage it
however it wished, keeping whatever it grew. Men worked hard, produced excess food, and
were able to reap rewards by trading product. Families could keep the fruit of their labors – this
incentive worked to increase the wealth and well-being of all.
To paraphrase William Bradford, the Governor of the colony, after much debate it was widely
agreed that each man would plant corn for his own use. This system proved successful because
the industriousness it generated resulted in larger harvests than would have been realized
So, on this day of Thanksgiving, let’s all be thankful that we live in a country that values the
efforts of each individual and offers each of us the opportunity to improve ourselves.