The Pilgrims' Progress


My family is living in poverty. Shocking, I know, especially since my husband has a steady income, we have food on the table three times a day, and we even go on vacation occasionally. However, our income is thousands — even tens of thousands of dollars — below the government determined level for a family of our size.

It’s strange that we could be poor (according to federal standards) and not know it. In fact, when I think about it, we have at least as much abundance as the Pilgrims of Plymouth Rock did: a bit of earth, a house, a well with clean water, orange-golden pumpkins, several fat chickens (no turkeys), blue sky, a fireplace and a home full of children.

  In addition, we enjoy the freedom to worship as we please, and the ability to determine our own destiny.

Still, caring for a large family every day is hard.  This is America! Shouldn’t life be easy? Perhaps I could drum up some sympathy for our situation if I took my nine children and camped out on the lawn of the County Building. I’m sure that if we pitched a tent and stayed for a week, people would truly understand how destitute we are.

Good grief! The Pilgrims didn’t come to America to live on Easy Street, or because houses, food, or doctors were free; they came because of opportunity! “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” have nothing tangible attached: no mansions, no perfect jobs, no great health benefits--just freedoms. Wealth isn’t about having things, it’s about having choices — choices that can progress to abundance if made correctly.

Although we celebrate abundance as a trademark of those first colonists, life wasn’t a piece of pie for the Pilgrims. Just days after the 1621 Thanksgiving celebration, another ship arrived bringing 36 more people to the fledgling colony. These new Pilgrims were as poor as those from the Mayflower. The added mouths were an additional burden on the original Pilgrims, still weak from the previous harsh winter, and preparing for another one.

The first Thanksgiving didn’t guarantee a life of ease ever after; it was only an expression of gratitude for their progress so far. There were still many long winters, cold days and difficult years before “plenty” became the norm in their lives. Landing in Plymouth wasn’t the end, it was the beginning. I believe their eventual progress was, in part, due to their gratitude.

My parents recently lived in Detroit as church service missionaries. They combined their efforts with many denominations to gather blankets, clothing and food for destitute people in the area. One medical student from Africa was happy to help their humanitarian efforts. However, although he had lived in downtown Detroit for several years, he remarked, “I still have yet to see real poverty in the United States.” Indeed, American poverty is a breed all its own, very different from the terrible hunger in many other countries.

Perhaps, in some ways, poverty in the USA is a state of mind. A stamp (no pun intended) that’s placed upon us and can potentially damage our free way of thinking. Maybe the real remedy isn’t freebies, but freedom.

Perhaps those who think that protesting these freedoms is patriotism should try gratitude instead.

So Happy Thanksgiving! This distinctly American holiday is founded on gratitude, not “gimme.”

Are we living below the poverty level? Not in my book. If this is being poor, I’ll take it! I’d rather live on a small income in America than above the national average in any other country. My family is rich! The blessings the Pilgrims enjoyed when they arrived on the Mayflower are still here. I would be honored if my own posterity’s progress mirrored that of the Pilgrims’.

No matter what our income level, “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” can still be served up in abundance on our platters and in our lives, if we will but partake.

Thank you, Pilgrims.

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