Oakland Press: May we count our many blessings this Thanksgiving

On Sept. 6, 1620, a group of more than 130 hardy souls departed in the ship the Mayflower from Plymouth, England, headed across the Atlantic for the mouth of the Hudson River in New York, seeking a home where they could worship freely.

After a harrowing two months at sea, the Pilgrims landed on Nov. 9 at Cape Cod, Massachusetts, more than 250 miles northeast of their original destination.

About half of the Pilgrims survived the first brutal winter in Massachusetts. After being befriended in the spring by Native Americans who taught them to survive in their new land, the Pilgrims enjoyed a successful harvest in the fall.

In November of 1621, the Pilgrims and their Native American friends gave thanks for their good fortune and celebrated with a three-day feast, now considered American’s first Thanksgiving.

Nearly 400 years later, although our circumstances as Americans are drastically different from those of the Pilgrims, we enjoy our own abundant blessings for which we give thanks.

We live in the greatest and freest nation in the history of the world. The Pilgrims pursued religious freedom; today Americans enjoy the fruit of that pursuit, along with the freedoms of speech and the press and other rights enshrined in our Constitution.

Closer to home, we are enjoying a substantial economic boon and remarkable recovery from Michigan’s Lost Decade.

While we should be grateful for our material blessings, it is most important to remember what is of the greatest worth: our creator, our family, and our friends.

As the Pilgrims knew, without the blessings of God, we are without hope. It is right and good to give thanks to him at Thanksgiving.

It is also good to thank God for our friends and family. I hope that you, like me, have many wonderful memories of Thanksgivings past spent around the dinner table with those closest to you.

Thanksgiving when I was a boy included days of cooking and baking and other holiday preparations. My aunt was famous for her pumpkin pies; Mom was famous for her homemade whipped cream.

On Thanksgiving morning, the family would be up early and head to the Detroit Parade. On the way home, we would stop for hot Vernors or hot chocolate.

I am grateful for such memories.

This Thanksgiving, make your own memories. Spend some extra time in meaningful conversation with those who mean the most to you. Let them know that you care about them, and that you are thankful for having them in your life.

I am thankful for my own wonderful family and friends, and I am thankful for the constituents of the 15th Senate District.

Have a wonderful and blessed Thanksgiving!

This column appeared in the Oakland Press. Senator Mike Kowall, R-White Lake, is the Michigan Senate majority floor leader. He serves the residents of the 15th Senate District, representing western Oakland County.