When I was a kid and my grandparents were still around, we would gather to their house in New Hampshire for Thanksgiving. Somewhat to our chagrin, they had a brief pre-feast ritual, where three grains of corn were placed on our plates to remind us of the Pilgrims’ deprivation that first year. And my grandfather would read the following passage from governor William Bradford’s memoirs:
I may not here omit how, notwithstand all their great pains and industry, and the great hopes of a large crop, the Lord seemed to blast, and take away the same, and to threaten further and more sore famine unto them. By a great drought which continued from the third week in May, till about the middle of July, without any rain and with great heat for the most part, insomuch as the corn began to wither away though it was set with fish, the moisture whereof helped it much. Yet at length it began to languish sore, and some of the drier grounds were parched like withered hay, part whereof was never recovered. Upon which they set apart a solemn day of humiliation, to seek the Lord by humble and fervent prayer, in this great distress. And He was pleased to give them a gracious and speedy answer, both to their own and the Indians’ admiration that lived amongst them. For all the morning, and the greatest part of the day, it was clear weather and very hot, and not a cloud or any sign of rain to be seen; yet toward evening it began to overcast, and shortly after to rain with such sweet and gentle showers as gave them cause of rejoicing and blessing God. It came without either wind or thunder or any violence, and by degrees in that abundance as that the earth was thoroughly wet and soaked and therewith. Which did so apparently revive and quicken the decayed corn and other fruits, as was wonderful to see, and made the Indians astonished to behold. And afterwards the Lord sent them such seasonable showers, with interchange of fair warm weather as, through His blessing, caused a fruitful and liberal harvest, to their no small comfort and rejoicing. For which mercy, in time convenient, they also set apart a day of thanksgiving.
Sometimes this ritual would make our eyes roll — the way spoiled kids do, who don’t understand how good they have it. We didn’t appreciate the thorough Jacobean prose. But I do remember one time it actually made my grandfather’s throat catch in the telling of it, at the sweet and gentle showers part, the granting of mercy from starvation and death.
All stipulations as to the moral complications of the holiday, and this text, apply; I’m not asking for anyone to think well of Bradford, or the English arrivals, or anyone. I’m not into ancestor worship.
But Lord may it please You to send some sweet and gentle showers of wisdom and strength to us this day — preferably without wind or thunder or any violence.