Let’s count our blessings together — truly as neighbors

Published 8:53 am Friday, November 27, 2015

“Come, ye thankful people come . . .” 

The first time I remember ever singing this hymn, I was in middle school.  I was in a play for Thanksgiving, and it was part of our class production.  The fact that it was a public school and we were singing a church hymn was routine.

Looking back, I notice several ironies. There I was, a very pale kid with bright red “Scotch-Irish” hair pretending to be one of the ancient tribes who had helped the Plymouth Colony pilgrims survive the starvation of their first year. I did so in Gloucester County, tribal seat of the Algonquin chief, Powhatan, who dealt with early English settlers in the Chesapeake region.

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I attended a school that was named after our county’s first African-American lawyer, T.C. Walker, whose investment in the economic improvement of others was renowned.  He had in fact, purchased the very land and provided for the first school on the site that I then later attended.  I am reminded that my life has been touched by far more people than I realize. 

The scene of that early Thanksgiving has always moved me. Warriors welcoming strangers in peace. Long-time residents making a place for new arrivals. One of those people, a Patuxet named Squanto, himself captured and enslaved 15 years before, had lost his whole tribe to European diseases. Yet he became instrumental in helping these Pilgrims to recover from their deadly first winter. 

People caring for people — person to person, regardless of who they are.

It is the key element that inspires so much hope in the stories of this season.  In movies, in images, in stories I see people reaching across the table, pulling up extra chairs, welcoming a new face, offering the best of their home and care to another.

Too often we fly past each other, barely acknowledging the people around us, much less connecting with them.

Jesus once told a story of people racing past a person in need far too fast to care.  He told of the one person who stopped and helped. It was the person everyone least expected. The story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) helps us see what it is to love our neighbors:  to notice each other, to see each other as people, and to care, to love to serve. 

Come, let us count our blessings together, give thanks to God and truly be neighbors. 

REV. MICHAEL KENDALL is lead pastor of Farmville United Methodist Church. His email mkendall@farmvilleumc.org.