Giving Thanks

The Early Pilgrim Colony | By Richard Ruddle

Biblical References: Ps: 50:14, Ps 95: 2-7, Ps:23, Ps92:1 

Narrator: (Enters) An offshore wind was bone chilling when the residents of the Pilgrim colony awoke to face another day of hardship in America during the winter of 1623. Immoderate weather, lack of food, fresh water and supplies had taken its toll on all of them. The long sea voyage two years earlier had been particularly difficult on the aged and very young. Many of them became very ill and died. Many were still ailing. Everyone knew at the outset that relocating to this new land would be difficult, but their faith and desire for religious freedom spurred them on. Now the reality of everyday life in this new world was taking a terrible toll on their spirit and resolve. Even the hardiest of them were beginning to have doubts about their chances of survival. What was to be done? Had the Lord forsaken them? Where were they to go? To whom could they turn in their darkening hours? Listen as the leader of the colony speaks to his wife as the new day is dawning. (Exits)

Leader: (To Wife) Today is the day we have traditionally set aside to thank the Lord, our GOD, for his blessings. I donít know how I can face the people of the colony again. How can I ask them to carry on? Our harvest was so poor. How can they do with even less and keep the faith when they are beset at every turn?

Leader's Wife: I know, but we have no choice other than to continue as long as we can and trust in the Lord. Most of the women agree that we must give our thanks to God, but our pantries are nearly empty. We have very little left for the children and the old ones. You are our chosen leader. What will you do?

Leader: I have called a meeting of all the able bodied in the colony for this morning. We canít just sit around and wait for the end. It is said that if you don't work you don't eat. We are not giving up without a fight. God has brought us to this land and He will sustain us. Iíve got to impress the others as a man of action, one who inspires trust. Someone they can follow. I hope I am up to it. Letís go! (Both don winter coats, and exit)

(Scene now shifts to center stage where Pilgrims are beginning to gather as the Leader and his wife approach).

Leader: (Assumes John Wayne attitude, cocked hat and walk as he approaches group waiting for meeting to start.) Now listen Pilgrims and listen good! (Assumes normal posture and voice to continue) When we left England the minions of King James warned us that we would fail. We were sure then that freedom to think and worship as we pleased outweighed any possible hardship. (All nod and express agreement). Are we going to admit that they were right? Are we going to give up our new land and cherished freedoms? Will we abandon our faith? I think not! 

James: We all agree with what you say, but what are we to do? The situation is becoming desperate! 

Leader: I went to God in prayer and this morning I awoke with renewed resolve. There are several things we can do right now. Now listen up for your assignment. We will all assemble back here about an hour before sunset (All listen intently).

Leader: Archie, you and Clyde take your muskets and head for the deep woods once again. I know you are not hunters. Just see what, if any, game you can find. Donít waste gunpowder. Our supply is nearly gone and we may need to defend ourselves if the Indians become hostile. (Both men agree and hurriedly exit). 

Leader: John, check the river area. Bring back anything edible you can find there. Maybe you can catch a few fish. Be careful. The Indian village is nearby and we donít want trouble with them. I know you have traded with them a few times and speak a little of their language. 

John: Just a little bit. Luckily one of their chiefs learned a little English from Missionaries. Iíll take care. Donít worry. There is a lot of ice on the water now and too few fish. Iíll do the best I can with a homemade spear and my bare hands. (Exits). 

Leader: Percy, you and Mrs. Smith check out the root cellars, corncrib and grain storage areas. Bring back whatever you can find there. I mean anything! (Smiths agree and exit).

Leader: Andrew, you and Mrs. Peabody scout the landing area for any overlooked or discarded supplies. Be thorough! Something may have washed ashore. (Peabodys agree and exit).

Leader: The rest of you return to your homes and check every nook and cranny for food. Bring anything that will help us. Above all, remember to pray! (All exit).

Narrator: (Enters) In the midst of adversity the Pilgrims held fast to their faith in God. They were his people. He knew them and they knew Him. God was the rock of their refuge. 

Narrator: It is evening now. The Leader and all those who were assigned tasks are returning to report on their success OR failures. (All Return to center stage table area) As they gather, their Leader addresses them once again. (Narrator Exits).

Leader: Most of us are back now and a few others are on their way. Gather around while we determine what our efforts have gained us.

Leader: Archie, what success did you and Clyde have? 

Archie: We went to the deep woods but didnít find any deer or large game. Maybe the Indians have already taken them. We did find a few mushrooms on the forest floor. Here they are. (Removes mushrooms from his coat pocket and hands them to the Leader). We didnít use any powder, but we did notice a couple of Indians who seemed to be watching us.

Leader: A few mushrooms wonít go very far, but thank you for trying. How about you John? Any luck at the river? 

John: I stood in that cold icy water for hours and only saw two small fish. I couldnít spear either of them. I tried to grab one of them and nearly drowned in the frigid water. I saw an Indian watching me from the trees on the bank, but he didnít bother me. As I was leaving the river to return here I encountered a large bear eating a fish. I was desperate. I threw rocks at him and fortunately for me he ran. Must have thought I was crazy! He left this part of the fish on the ground when he ran. (Hands half-eaten fish to Leader). 

Leader: A few mushrooms and a half-eaten fish. Not much to show for our efforts so far. Percy, what did you and your wife discover when you checked the root cellars and corn crib? 

Percy: I found one ear of corn wedged beneath a storage bin. Itís kind of small. (Hands ear of corn to Leader) 

Mrs. Smith: I found this old potato in a discarded gunnysack and bit of barley in the grain bin. (Hands to Leader).

Leader: Well Andrew, How did you and Mrs. Peabody fare? 

Andrew: I found a partially empty box of hard tack bread wedged between the rocks a few hundred yards from our landing site. (Proudly hands bread wrapped in cloth to Leader) Only a few dozen moldy pieces there, but we brought them anyway.

Mrs. Peabody: (Excitedly) I found this on the way back (Holds up object for all to see) Itís a birds nest. I read that people in Asia put them in soup. (Group members groan in disbelief). No birds were using it. So, I brought it along. (Hands nest to Leader).

Leader: Thanks Mrs. Peabody and thanks to all of you and our Lord. 

Andrew: How can we give sincere thanks to God for so little? 

Leader: If we canít give thanks for a little, how will we ever give thanks for a lot? Does anyone else have something to contribute?

Granny Webster: Iíve got something fer ye! I was heating my bed warmer in the fireplace last evening when I heard a scratching noise near the wood box on my front porch. I thought it might be one of them Indians creeping around. I held my bed warmer by the handle like a club and slowly opened the door to peek out. There was this half frozen goose flopped on the porch. I prayed for him and then whopped him with my bed warmer. I plucked his feathers out and brought the rest to you. (Reaches beneath her shawl and presents scrawny plucked goose to Leader) 

Leader: Granny, you are a God Send! Weíre going to take all of these things and make some Wilderness Stew for our Thanksgiving. It wonít be a feast, but itís a start. (Hands basket of food items to Pilgrim Lady). Lets get started with that stew right now!

Pilgrim Lady: Iíll start setting the table while the others are preparing the food. (Takes bags and off stage, then returns to begin setting table)

Leader: (Suddenly two painted Indians arrive looking fearsome, carrying weapons and some things wrapped in cloth bundles. The people draw back as they approach and then remain silent.) John, you understand their language, speak with them. 

Indian Chief: (Stands in front of John and looks him in the eye. Indian Medicine Man shakes beads and mumbles a chant in Johnís direction as the Chief speaks). You fish poorly! (Looks at Archie as Medicine man shakes beads and chants) You chase away deer. Ruin our hunt! (Looks at Leader as Medicine Man shakes beads and chants). You plant corn too late, no harvest for winter! (Gestures to crowd as Medicine Man shakes beads and chants at them). You not survive alone! Great Spirit has told Medicine Man (Points to Medicine Man) that we must help you. The Great Spirit sends us with food for the winter and herbs to cure the sick. We will bring more soon. (Hands two bundles of supplies to Leader)

Leader: (quickly inspects the contents and hands bags to Pilgrim Lady who hurries away to the kitchen) Add these to things we already have. 

Indian Chief: We will eat together, smoke tobacco and talk of these things. (Crowd cheers).

Leader: (Looking toward Heaven) Lord, thou hast prepared a table before me in the presence of mine enemies! (Pilgrims and Indians mingle, shake hands in friendly manner as preparations for dinner begin). Our Indian friends have shared their bounty. With the supplies they have just provided and help they have offered, we will make it. Lets us welcome them to share our Thanksgiving meal. 

Pilgrim Lady: Come on everyone. Let me seat you all at the table for dinner. Our Indian Friends get the places of honor. (Seats Indians and directs others to table as Narrator enters).

Narrator: In that same spirit, let us all take a few moments to truly give thanks to the Lord for our blessings. (Entire cast gathers behind Narrator facing audience to join in prayer) 

Dear God in Heaven,
We are thankful Lord that you continue to bless us in so many ways.
We are thankful for our freedom to worship you openly in our own way. 
We are thankful for your love and that of our families and faithful friends. 
We are thankful for our homes and the strength to endure and overcome the everyday hardships of our new land. We are thankful for the strength and wisdom of our leaders and pray you will continue to guide them. We know that you are the Good Shepherd who will never abandon his flock. We know that that in the end we will be with you in heaven. So please, Heavenly Father, bless the food you have provided for us this day and bless every person here to give thanks and honor You.


Copyright 2010 Richard Ruddle

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