Celebrating Thanksgiving in a world with electricity, running hot and cold water, refrigeration, supermarkets, airplanes and cars makes it hard to remember just how hard life was for the people who celebrated the first feast.

We tend to forget just how difficult and terrifying it must have been for those early colonists; how much they had to depend on God and their faith in Him.

As devout Christians believing in pre-destination, they overcame hardships by thanking God for all blessings and accepting all setbacks as tests made by Him for their own good.

That faith is what kept them going, even when they lost half of their number the first winter to privation and disease.

But this group of individuals was used to struggle and toil; used to adapting to different situations.

Already the group had fled the comfort of home for the freedom of Holland. There the parents had watched as their children became more and more adapted to the more secular world of the Dutch. Becoming alarmed for their children’s souls and future, they decided they had to move yet again.

But imagine what they faced, starting with an ocean voyage of about 3,000 miles.

The Atlantic in the autumn is tempest tossed water, so as for a second time the urban Puritan families were leaving everything familiar behind them, they were facing an awesome adventure.

For 65 days the 40-some Christians and the 60-some fellows seeking their fortunes were cramped into the Mayflower — which was actually a merchant cargo vessel six inches short of 107 feet. The passengers were squeezed into the ‘tween deck, which only had five feet of headroom and no ventilation.

Imagine as the shore fell out of sight and whitecaps spread as far as the eye could see. The ship heaves and rolls, it is almost always leaking. Imagine having to spend most of the time in a smelly, dank, dark, claustrophobic space — with no privacy and mostly being sea sick.

Then, suddenly one day, imagine how joyous the first sniff of land is, and the sight of sea gulls hovering overhead. Salvation must have seemed at hand.

Only here’s the thing, the Mayflower had been aiming for the mouth of the Hudson River and what is now New York City, only the ship had gotten caught in the Gulf Stream, an unknown entity at the time. That current pulled them north as they sailed west, so they ended up off of Cape Cod in Massachusetts, making first landfall on Nov. 11. Even then, the landfall was tenuous.

Winter was approaching, the Mayflower’s captain anxious to return home. The Pilgrim’s food provisions were almost gone, and houses had to be built.

Imagine the blackness of those early nights, the vastness of the days. All that could be heard was the wind in the trees, bird calls, and rustlings in the woods that might be animals to chase for dinner, or humans about to chase you.

Imagine being in a place where you have to find what you eat, but you don’t know where to look; a place where the plants you are used to growing and using as food don’t do well and die off.

Imagine having to learn how to eat something different.

Imagine the courage it took, that first very cold winter, to reach out to the local inhabitants, some of whom hate you.

Then imagine how they must have felt, as late the next summer, enough people have survived so they knew their colony might actually come to thrive. Thanks giving, indeed.

Imagine being that grateful for the gift of life and possibility. May you know that kind peace.

Happy Thanksgiving.

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