The story is told of the first few years of the pilgrim’s residence in the wilds of New England. Camped precariously on the edge of the great woods, this little band of white settlers had lost much to find their new home in North America. Battered and decimated by the long journey across the ocean, the Pilgrims set up their small settlement at Plymouth Rock. We all know the legend of that first Thanksgiving. Short of food, unfamiliar with the crops of the New World, they were saved; it seems by the generosity of the Native Americans whom they would someday make war upon.
Several years into the new settlement, the Puritan fathers had exhausted their resources, even with planting by the shore. The proposal was made to build a road into the interior to bring wood and other resources to the settlement. Much was said at that meeting but in the end, the fathers voted to not build that road. One young woman stood up after this decision and asked to address the meeting. Reluctantly given permission she said: “Here we have traveled thousands of miles over the most dangerous seas, fleeing a mighty persecution on account of our religion; facing savages not all of who are friendly, and staving off starvation only to be afraid to build this road several miles into the wilderness! Why would God give us such a magnificent creation if not to be seen and used? Wherefore that same courage good gentlemen that carried you here, cannot carry you on?” The assembled voted to build the road.
We can argue, of course, as to whether or not such a road was ever a good idea. After all, these Euro Americans would build a great many roads at a great cost to the environment. We would come to exploit all that the land had to offer and we would, most tragically, come to decimate the native peoples of this land. But the salient message in this apocryphal story is not the road but the courage to create something new. Ours is a world rent and ravaged by war and injustice, this great land for which we give thanks is a torn by sectarian and political divisions. The rich are getting richer and the poor getting poorer. And yet, we have the power to create something new, the power to build a new road into this wilderness of despair and bring people together as we are doing this evening, if only in our own small way. We have the power if we have the courage to speak our mind, and be who we are destined to be like this powerful young woman.
As we journey through the holidays consider the gift of courage for yourself and those you love. We are destined to change our world.
With Grace and Grit, John