Five Kernels of Corn

During this Thanksgiving season, our hearts and minds turn to the blessings that we have received. For most of us, they are abundant, and we have much for which to be thankful. But the enormity of the blessing is clearest to us when we are able to contrast it with times of meager existence.

The Pilgrims endured incredible hardship when they came to the New World seeking a life of freedom. After three months at sea on the Mayflower, they landed to face a brutal winter. They were physically and emotionally ravaged, there was no food, and they possessed no resources for surviving the elements.

Nearly half of the company died, and those who survived existed on the brink of death as they battled against exposure, sickness, and starvation. They were unfamiliar with the new environment, and gardens proved fruitless. They rationed every bite of food, and at one point, only five men were well enough to care for the sick.

Despite it all, they continued to worship, and they gave thanks to God every day along with the earnest petitions they offered up for His presence and help. One Sunday morning, they received tangible evidence that God had heard their prayers. Their worship service was interrupted by an unexpected guest, an Algonquin Indian chief, who assessed their hopeless situation. He left and then returned with a helper named Squanto.

You know the story. Squanto spoke perfect English and taught the Pilgrims how to hunt, trap, and plant Indian corn, a staple that would save their lives. What followed was a marvelous shared feast of thanksgiving.

But the Pilgrims’ hardships were far from over. The plentiful autumn was followed by another treacherous winter and a terrible drought. To make matters worse, their supplies were completely depleted when more colonists arrived on the ship Fortune.

At their lowest point, the Pilgrims were reduced to a daily ration of five kernels of corn for each person. In utter desperation, they fell to their knees and prayed for eight hours without ceasing. Again God heard their supplications, and fourteen days of rain followed. A second day of thanksgiving was declared.

Eventually, as the months and years passed, God helped the Pilgrim company to become firmly established and to thrive in their new home. But it is said that ever after, when they came to a feast of thanksgiving, they placed five kernels of corn at the plate of each person who came to celebrate. It served as a bold reminder of the tough times – the times when they survived only by the direct hand of God.

As you approach this Thanksgiving Day, you may be looking back on a year filled with joy and abundance, or you may have experienced a year of hardship. For most of us, it has probably been a mixed bag – times of plenty and times of sorrow. Whatever the situation, as we sit down to a feast this Thanksgiving, perhaps we would do well to think of the five kernels of corn. Not only will we be reminded that God is present during the bleakest of times, but we will be more appreciative of the enormity of the blessings in the good times.

With Love,