By JAMIE ALLARD
A lot has changed since that first Thanksgiving. At that time, I doubt the people knew the historical weight of their actions, or that their feast would be commemorated 400 years later.
They were just regular people doing their best to survive. They were moms, dads, children, strangers, new friends, helping each other through the dark times after surviving a voyage across an enormous ocean to an unknown place, where they hoped to worship in peace.
But survival wasn’t enough for them. They wanted to thrive. I can imagine their exhaustion, grief, and fortitude as they came together in community to make peace, and give thanks. It is only with true gratitude in our hearts that we can overcome our differences, our challenges, and our circumstances to move from surviving to thriving.
The past two years of pandemic panic have felt like survival mode. That spirit of the early European settlers and the Native Americans who aided them has been challenged, threatened, and canceled across our nation. But history teaches us that the pressure of tough times is what builds community. In our struggles, we relearn that we need each other. We dig deep, find thankfulness for what we have, and give to our neighbors.
This Thanksgiving, I invite you to pause and look beyond the food, the day off, the football, and the shopping to remember the spirit of that first Thanksgiving. Imagine the grief at the depth of their loss, the strength of their bonds forged in overcoming death, and their overwhelming gratitude for unlikely friends.
Like them, we are not defeated. Because of them, we live in this great nation. As a hispanic American, with deep Chilean roots, I am forever thankful for our American freedom, our family, the grace of God, and those who went before us. Look around and beyond our differences to find true thanks that will move us forward as a country, just as it did 400 years ago.
I have faith that if we can hold that thanks in our hearts, we can move from surviving to thriving once more.
Jamie Allard is an Anchorage Assembly representative from Chugiak/Eagle River.