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With Thanksgiving only a week or so away, I find myself almost frantic to discuss our founding ancestors and how they managed to not only survive but thrive in this interesting new world! But before I discus, in depth, these remarkable people, it is interesting to me that we can almost compare our Pilgrim fathers and mothers with those who are actually living very much as those hearty souls did in 1620(!) I am talking about those who are still suffering from Hurricane Sandy, and it would seem that the only real difference is that those who came over on the Mayflower wanted to come and had some idea that when they got here (God willing) they would face incredible hardships. And, of course, they did. But the survivors of Hurricane Sandy, especially those who lived near the Jersey shore, were totally unprepared to live without any of the things that the rest of us think we need to survive in the year 2012.
Let’s just think about it a little. The Pilgrims didn’t have the luxury of bringing huge wardrobes of clothes with them. I would hope that they were able to bring one set to change into when the one they were wearing was desperate to be washed, mended or be pressed into some other household task- like a rag. They weren’t taken by surprise at their hardships. Nope, although they might not have known exactly what to expect, they knew that it wasn’t going to be easy. And we know for a fact, that it wasn’t Of course where they came from wasn’t a walk in the park either. Back then, much like some parts of our world today, you were either rich beyond words, a worker bee, or bone poor. And as I understand it, the Mayflower carried some of each to this new world.
These folks suffered from the elements, had little or no food and had to depend on the native Americans who lived there to show them how to survive the cold, the rain, the snow, the knee deep mud and of course, not being able to throw their money around and get what they needed from the corner store.
We know that they did survive and they eventually flourished. But it was amazingly hard. And here I have to add a comment of my own - it was bad enough for the men but the woman had to be the real stars! They cooked, cleaned, got pregnant as often as possible, took care of the children, and planted and grew the gardens. My personal favorite is after she got the game, etc. from the men, she had to clean it, cook it and prepare a feast for everyone present, including a number of the native Americans. And did she get the opportunity to join the festivities and eat what she prepared? Absolutely not! That was relegated to the men and if the women were lucky, they got to eat some of the scraps that were left after the men had finished their celebration. And I always wonder how these women were able to fulfill all these tasks without catching their wet and dirty skirts on fire!
Before I make my yearly suggestions about Thanksgiving and the Pilgrims, think long and hard about the pilgrims who are having their celebration this year in either a shelter or around a little bonfire made up of all their worldly possessions - and probably not a man among them will be going out to bag a deer or a turkey! These extraordinary individuals are suffering even more than our forefathers. They never really saw it coming and when they looked around, they had lost absolutely everything. Electricity is one thing, but to have nothing of the life that you had just a few weeks ago is really more than a human being should have to bear.
I know for myself and the Reiss family, I just don’t know how to help or what to do. Our financial situation is such that any donation I can make is not even a pittance. But maybe if we all look deep into our hearts, we can think of some way to ease their suffering, if only a little bit.
This summer, my youngest granddaughter, Katie Mei who is 9, went with her parents to see the Mayflower and the Plimoth Plantation and she was amazed, to say the least. I don’t know what she thought she was going to see but as a wonderful, bright little girl from China, she was shocked that none of her forefathers lived in Plimoth. She could hardly fathom that the tiny little boat that they walked around in was an exact replica of the original Mayflower, and the thought of more than about 10 people on board gave her claustrophobia. But she was able to take all she learned back to Colorado when she went home and kept her class on the edge of their seats while she described everything that they saw. And, of course, this is what I am suggesting for you and your family today. Take the time to go visit Plymouth, Mass. and visit the Mayflower and the replica of the original Plimoth Plantation. It is on the same spot and is amazing way to re-connect with our heritage.
And for Thanksgiving this year, encourage your family and friends to donate something to be given to the pilgrims of today in New York and New Jersey. It really doesn’t make any difference what it is, as long as it is something, because too many of these people have absolutely nothing!! And whether you have just moved here or have lived in this country for generations, this is an integral part of our heritage. Be good, be kind and like the native Americans did for our ancestors, help and share. And then have a very Happy Thanksgiving.
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