Reflections on a Wandering Life.....

Thursday, November 25, 2004

I checked out several places for Thanksgiving dinner. The top price was the Swisshotel. More than 200RMB. The best price was the Holiday Inn at Temple of Heaven, but it is not very convenient to get too. They told me it is not near a subway station. I would probably have to take a cab, and the price for that added to the cost of the meal would make it less than a bargain. I decided to compromise and went to the John Bull Pub, because it is a ten minute walk from the subway station in Jianguomen. It may seem strange that I would choose a British restaurant to eat Thanksgiving dinner, but the first Thanksgiving celebrants were, well, quite British, including Squanto, who had lived in England and spoke the King's English.

The first years of the Pilgrims were tough. They had all things in common. But those who were strong and worked hard got no more than those who were lazy. This tended to discourage initiative. In 1623, Governor Bradford abolished Socialism, and announced that every family would have their own parcel of land, and be able to keep the profit from whatever they produced. That was the end of famine for the Pilgrims. But what impresses me most about the Pilgrims is the way they changed the world, not by forcing their beliefs on those around them, but by their determination to just be themselves, and worship God as they saw fit. I will never forget when I stood on the beach by Plymouth Rock in the summer of 1988. It seemed like such an insignificant piece of geology. Not something I would have been impressed with if I had happened upon it incidentally. Seen in isolation, it was really nothing. But Plymouth Rock became great because of the people who stepped on it. They were great people. And they were great people not because of their determination to change the world. They were actually most concerned about separation from the world. And in daring to be themselves, they made history.

I remember reading about the "Mayflower Compact" when I was in elementary school. But when I actually visited the area, I realized what it was really about. The Pilgrems were separatists. They did not want to associate with "Strangers." But they had landed in the new world, and the ship and crew could not return right away. So they were forced to live with people they would normally not associate with. The Mayflower Compact was a compact between the "Saints" and the "Strangers." When viewed in this light, it really is a fascinating document. The Pilgrims had much to be thankful for. And one of the things we have to be thankful for is the Pilgrims, and their determination not to let the world tell them who or what they should be. If you ever get a chance to visit the Plymouth Plantation and the Mayflower, I assure you, it will be a trip well worth your time.

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