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Just dropping by ... The ship of gratitude

Yevet Tenney for Progressive Dairy Published on 05 November 2020

ByYears ago, a painting of a pirate ship hung in my daughter’s bedroom. The ship sat on the waters of a ruffled sea. The black spindly masts making stark shadows against the florescent lime-green and yellow moonlight shining on the dark green and indigo water.

The artist took great care to create an ominous mood. Often, as I stared at the painting, an awesome fear overwhelmed me as I imagined what it would be like on the ocean in that small craft with leagues and leagues of billowing water rolling under me. I am a land creature from Arizona, not a sea-faring adventurer. Terror seized me as I thought of what it would be like to be in a storm with the wind howling and lightning flashing over the tiny ship as it rolled and pitched on the giant waves. Sailing is not for me. I pitied the sailor who ever set sail in such a ship. Then, I remembered: The Pilgrims sailed such a ship.



When the Mayflower sailed from Plymouth alone on September … 1620, with what Bradford called “a prosperous wind,” she carried 102 passengers plus a crew of 25 to 30 officers and men, bringing the total aboard to approximately 130. However, at about 180 tons, the Mayflower was considered a smaller cargo ship, having traveled mainly between England and Bordeaux with clothing and wine, not an ocean ship. Nor was it in good shape, as it was sold for scrap four years after her Atlantic voyage. She was a high-built craft forward and aft, measuring approximately 100 feet (30 meters) in length and about 25 feet (7.6 meters) at her widest point.

(Wikipedia - Mayflower)

One hundred and thirty people on a tiny rickety ship? I cannot even imagine. My house measures about 50 feet long and about 70 feet wide. It is comfortable for three to five people. We have our privacy. I move about my small kitchen with ease. Everything is at my fingertips: hot running water, a stove that lights with the twist of a knob and a refrigerator that keeps things cold, allowing me to have all sorts of fresh vegetables, fruits and dairy products. There is a medicine cabinet above the stove that stores a myriad of over-the-counter drugs and herbs to help with headaches, backaches, colds and various other sundry ailments. I have a second set of medicines in the children’s variety.

The pantry is stocked with premixed pancakes, biscuits, bread, cold cereal, crackers, oatmeal, canned meat and treats for every occasion. My house is exactly right for three to five people. One hundred and thirty people stacked in every nook and cranny? Unthinkable. And I think my life is hard when I must be locked in and wear a mask to the grocery store.

I wonder what the Pilgrims must think when they look down on our plenty and hear our complaints about our COVID-19 circumstances. We do not have a clue what suffering is. Unless we have suffered privation, we really do not understand the meaning of gratitude. Surely the first Thanksgiving with the Pilgrims was stacked on many days of giving thanks for even waking up to a new day.


During the winter, the passengers remained on board Mayflower, suffering an outbreak of a contagious disease described as a mixture of scurvy, pneumonia and tuberculosis. After it was over, only 53 passengers remained – just over half; half of the crew died as well. In the spring, they built huts ashore, and the passengers disembarked from Mayflower on March 31, 1621.

Historian Benson John Lossing described that first settlement:

“After many hardships, … the Pilgrim Fathers first set foot December 1620 upon a bare rock on the bleak coast of Massachusetts Bay, while all around the earth was covered with deep snow … Dreary, indeed, was the prospect before them. Exposure and privations had prostrated one half of the men before the first blow of the ax had been struck to build a habitation … One by one perished. The governor and his wife died in April 1621; and on the first of that month, forty-six of the one hundred emigrants were in their graves … ”

The Pilgrims knew what it meant to give thanks even though they had virtually nothing of earthly comforts. Interestingly, none of the Pilgrims chose to go back to England when the Mayflower sailed. They chose to stay even though they were in dire circumstances. They were grateful for their freedom and they trusted God, whom they recognized as their benefactor.

We live better than all the kings and queens who ever sat the thrones of history. They lived in dark, dank castles with no running water or modern plumbing. We have climate-controlled, carpeted worlds with every luxury at our fingertips. We can talk to someone across the world in a blink of an eye. Our food magically comes in boxes and microwaves. What do we know about gratitude? We complain if we have a glitch on the internet.

Perhaps we are like the 10 lepers who Christ healed, and only one came to express gratitude. I cannot help but wonder how Christ must feel when we, like the nine lepers, march over the hill without so much as a smile or a wave. Even worse, how He must feel when we complain about our circumstances when we have more than all the kings and queens who ever lived? We have running water and bathrooms with toilets and tubs. We have pantries full of food and garages with cars that take us wherever we want to go with a turn of the key. We have the internet and mass media that were unheard of even in my childhood. Yet we get up in the morning and complain because the eggs are a little too done. We curse and complain because we must wait a few minutes in traffic. We look in our closets filled with a plethora of styles and colors; yet we turn up our nose and say, “I don’t have anything to wear.” I wonder what He thinks.


I also wonder how the Founding Fathers, who spilled the best blood of a generation to buy freedom from monarchy and tyranny, must feel when we cry to the government to solve our problems or feel threatened when someone doesn’t agree with us. Where is the bootstrap principle of the American dream? Where are those who will plant their feet firmly in the tradition of ‘six days shalt thou labor’? I wonder what the Founding Fathers think when they see us endorsing government controls. I am sure they moan with the knowledge of where such thinking will take us. People who allow themselves to be fed by the government will soon find they are controlled by the government. Where is the gratitude for what our Founding Fathers gave us?

Gratitude is a teacher and a brain-changer. As we express gratitude, the memory is imprinted in our brains, and we remember and own the blessing. The blessing stacks on other blessings we have received, and we feel content and peaceful because we realize and embrace what we have. If we ignore the blessing and think only of what we wish we had, our brain imprints our loss, and we see only what we do not have. Gratitude gives us plenty, while ingratitude builds dissatisfaction and scarcity in our lives. Perhaps that is why the leper who returned to express gratitude to Christ was blessed by the Savior and was given the added blessing of being made whole.

The Pilgrims and our Founding Fathers were people of gratitude and vision. They boarded ships and sailed with fellow passengers in crowded, unsanitary quarters without masks or medical help to reach freedom. They fought for their sovereignty daily as they foraged a new land. They expressed gratitude for every blessing and adversity because it took them closer to the American dream of liberty. Though we live in a garden of Eden compared to them, we can still be filled with gratitude. We can look at our plenty and our adversity in perspective. We can turn with gratitude on this Thanksgiving Day and remember the sacrifices that made our way of life possible. As gratitude fills our hearts, like the leper, we will be made whole. end mark

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