The Thanksgiving in forgiving

Published 8:36 pm Friday, November 29, 2019

By QuaWanna Bannarbie

Last week, a kindergarten boy in my neighborhood jumped off the bus with a make-shift pilgrim hat on his head. I laughed as soon as I saw him. His cute little face under that tall black hat reminded me of my days in elementary school during the week before Thanksgiving.

I have to say, I have been surprised that I have not seen more pilgrim hats and Indian headdress this week. When I think about it, I cannot recall seeing many of those crafty hats over the past 10 years that my children have been in school. Perhaps we have become so culturally sensitive as not to offend a story of any people or race that we have fewer and fewer reminders about the so-called “First Thanksgiving.”

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As an elementary school student, I learned that the pilgrims and native people in the “New World” shared a meal together near Plymouth, Mass. The natives and the colonists came together to give thanks to the Lord for the rain that had relieved the people from a long drought. There have been debates about whether this retelling is true. What transpired between indigenous people and the early settlers resulted in the decimation of a huge population of human beings. I suspect that is why we rarely hear about that time in the 1620s when two groups of people with differing beliefs agreed to share a meal together.

An interesting thought came to my mind as I considered all the reasons why we should not avoid sharing the Pilgrims’ Thanksgiving story with our young people.

Every November, charitable acts of kindness flood our news coverage, articles and social media feed supporting the idea that this is the season for giving. We give thanks to the Lord for what He has done just as that small, diverse group of people did back in our nation’s history. Have you ever considered that perhaps the holiday is less about acts of giving and more about forgiveness?

In terms of this nation’s history of massacre and oppression of people, we could take this opportunity for a nation to repent and offer an olive branch for the wrongs of a nation. In as much as it is a day for giving thanks, Thanksgiving should be a day praising forgiveness. We should be reminded of the native people of this land on Thanksgiving Day because their hearts have had to forgive. It is just as fitting for us to think of how much we have been forgiven and therefore we should forgive others even more. Colossians 3:13 says, “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” (NIV)

Certainly, the gift of God’s son, Jesus Christ, is the greatest act of forgiveness this world has ever seen.

This Thanksgiving, I can imagine there was a family where divorced parents were seated at the dinner table together at the request of their adult child who is praying for reconciliation. Forgiveness at that table would make for an answer to that son’s prayer. Or perhaps there were two siblings who have not spoken to each other in such a long time that they have forgotten what their feud was about in the first place. Forgiveness would mean that those two sisters can spend their holidays together rather than alone. For the husband and wife that are holding something over the other’s head, forgiveness would mean that your children will enjoy their holiday without the toxic environment that is present in their home.

Some families take a moment around the family room and share something that they are thankful for on Thanksgiving Day. May I suggest that you offer a time of reflection to acknowledge forgiveness or extend forgiveness to someone that you love. Forgiveness is a work of the heart and spirit. It is truly a miracle that we need to be thankful for all year long, and not just on Thanksgiving Day.

QuaWanna Bannarbie is an adjunct professor of nonprofit leadership and management with Indiana Wesleyan University, National and Global. Her children attend Suffolk Public Schools. Connect with her via or via Twitter @QNikki_Notes.