Current Progressive Dairy digital edition

Just dropping by ... Making Thanksgiving a day of gratitude

Yevet Crandell Tenney for Progressive Dairy Published on 24 November 2021

I’m never quite prepared for the first frost. Everything is green and wonderful one day, and the next day it is brown and wilting. I often think of the pioneers during this season of the year and say a little prayer of thanks that I live today and not a hundred years ago.

I know what it’s like to have cold feet in the middle of the night and sleep in a bed damp from the rain, but I get up in the morning, there is food to make a hot meal, a way to dry the blankets and a fire to thaw my icy feet.



In 1620, when the Pilgrims landed in Plymouth after a 66-day voyage on the Mayflower, they were well into the winter season. In December, they had to take refuge on an island against a blinding snowstorm. I can’t imagine going into winter in a strange land without houses or adequate provisions. During the first year, the Pilgrims lost almost half the members to sickness and exposure. The sorrow and misery must have been tremendous. I can only imagine how horrible.

A year later, the Pilgrims were on their knees thanking God for a bounteous harvest with their Native American friends who had so generously helped them overcome the obstacles in their new home. The Pilgrims’ gratitude and grief must have been overwhelming as they looked around the table and remembered the many pale spirits in shallow graves who were not seated at the table. They must have remembered every tragedy and prayer for recovery that seemed to go unanswered. The meal was nothing compared to the meals we will set on the table Thanksgiving Day, but their gratitude was more complete and truer than ours could ever be. Gratitude grows deeper with adversity. Tragedy brings heartfelt gratitude like nothing else. Tragedy digs a cavern in the heart so deep that gratitude can fill every fiber of the soul. The deeper the cavern, the more gratitude your heart will hold. I have known tragedy, and felt sorrow, but the cavern in my soul is miniscule compared to those who sat at the first Thanksgiving feast.

So many Thanksgivings have sped away without a thought of why we even celebrate a day of gratitude. We sit in our warm houses and spread a meal fit for a king and eat ourselves into a stupor without even mentioning the Pilgrims, the soldiers and pioneers who gave us so much. To really make Thanksgiving a memorable experience, we must make it a tradition of remembering. We must ponder the sacrifice and tell the stories of those who gave so much. We all have stories of those who have gone before. If we don’t have our own stories, the internet has a few. As we set our table with the feast to celebrate the Pilgrims and the humble beginning of our country, it would be good to make it more of a ritual of remembering than a stuffing of the turkey before we stuff ourselves.

The white lace tablecloth we put over our polished dining room table could represent the purity of the Pilgrims’ desire for freedom to worship God as they pleased. The candles that shimmer over the china, crystal and silverware can be reminiscent of those who died in that long, hard winter and were never able to give thanks for a wonderful harvest. It can also bring to mind those who gave their lives on battlefields to ensure our freedom. The flame of the candle can flicker in remembrance of their legacy of love.

As we set the steaming turkey and dressing on the table, we can remember that our Founding Fathers chose a different bird to represent our great nation. The bald eagle soars against the vaulted blue of heaven as an emblem of freedom, family solidarity and fierce union. We will express gratitude for that emblem and the opportunity and boundless freedom it represents. We will think of the signers of the Declaration of Independence who pledged their lives, wealth and sacred honor to hand down a legacy of liberty for future generations who would take it for granted because they did nothing to obtain it.


When the steaming baskets of hot rolls are set on the table, it would be well to think of the acres and acres of golden wheat that wave across America and honor the thousands of farmers who toiled to make it grow. We will recognize that we did not plant the seeds, did not water them, worry over them or harvest them. Yet because we live in this great land, we can eat the bread in the warm glow of family love. God bless the farmers.

The canned cranberries, green bean salad and the yams can remind us of the thousands of hands we depend on every day: truckers, storekeepers, canneries and salespeople who bring those things to our doors. When was the last time we said a prayer of thanks for a truck driver, a cashier or a shelf-stocker for the service they render every day? COVID-19 (and its variants) continue to remind us how vulnerable our chain of food can be, and without those servants in the supermarkets we would be as destitute as the Pilgrims in late December.

When we set the butter on the table, we can remember how long it’s been since we milked a cow. For some of us, the answer would be never; yet we drink milk or its byproducts daily. We could remember that making cheese, cottage cheese and ice cream is a time-consuming process, and we don’t have to do it. My grandmother whipped cream into butter every day with a fork – now we just open the fridge. We should venerate the dairymen and women who rise every morning before daylight to milk cows and return to do it again before sundown. We don’t have to worry about feeding the cows winter, spring, summer and fall. They call the vet for sick animals and bear the burden of loss when a prize animal dies. They worry about the rise and fall of prices, while we sleep in warm electric-blanketed beds, knowing we have milk for morning hot chocolate and cheese for pizza at lunch. This Thanksgiving, as we spread butter on the hot rolls, we should say, “God bless the dairymen and dairywomen.”

The pumpkin and the mincemeat pie could remind us we live a sweet and wonderful life. Our daily labors are simple and rewarding. We go as we please and return as we please. Sure, we must wear a mask in certain places and worry about the economy, but Saturday or Sunday we are able to attend church and worship God in our own way. We can be grateful that in America men, women and children can attend church without fear of ridicule or oppression. They thank God in their own special way and pray for their own special needs. God answers their prayers as He did those of the Pilgrims in 1620.

Despite the COVID restrictions, we as Americans can bow our heads on Thanksgiving Day and say thank you in our own way. We are free to make Thanksgiving a day of remembering or a day of stuffing more than the turkey. Because of those who paid the price, we possess the gift of liberty, and we can fill our hearts with gratitude. Some will feel it deep in their souls, and some will not feel it at all. We can make Thanksgiving memorable or just another holiday in a long line of holidays.

For some, winter will come unnoticed except for a thermostat change from cold to warm in the house and car. We’ll notice leaves falling, and finally snow, but how many of us will feel and understand the cold the Pilgrims knew or understand the joy and gratitude the Pilgrims felt on that first Thanksgiving Day? By comparison, our gratitude will be the empty hollow sound of babbling words. Who could possibly find words to express thanks to those who gave all they had – even life itself – to make America the empire of unfathomable wealth we have today?


As for me, I will be an American who says, “Thank you God for letting me live in the greatest country in the world in the most blessed of times. Let me do my part to keep America free and continue the legacy of love the Pilgrims left.” end mark

Yevet Crandell Tenney is a Christian columnist who loves American values and traditions. She writes about faith, family and freedom.