The First ‘Official’ Thanksgiving
I planned and used this meeting as a Thanksgiving Discussion for both my Middle School and High School Youth Groups. In addition to our annual ‘Thanksgiving Cookoff’, I wanted to offer a ‘true meaning of Thanksgiving’ type of discussion.
Earlier in the month, I had challenged my teens to participate in “Thirty Days of Thanks” either via Facebook or Twitter. I have a few teens who do not participate in social media, so I suggested that they keep a notebook at home and write it down for themselves each day. The challenge (which you might have noticed others doing via Facebook and Twitter) is to start each day with a post/message saying what you are thankful for. One post a day, thirty days!
I began my meeting with a brief discussion of “How’s Thirty Days of Thanks Going?”
Once everyone answered, I split the group up into two teams to participate in couple Thanksgiving Themed Games. Then, I started our discussion off with the story of The First ‘Official’ Thanksgiving as it is written below. (If you’re not interested in the games, scroll down to the Story/Discussion section)
What You’ll Need-
-A Bag of Fresh Cranberries (not cooked)
-12 Thanksgiving Cups (Happy Thanksgiving Themed Party Cups)
-A Pilgrim Hat and/or Indian Headress (I purchased both at Party City)
-A Canned Good (I used a can of cranberry sauce/jelly)
-12 Pilgrim Dressed Rubber Duckies (not necessary, but very cute – I purchased at Party City)
How I Ran The Meeting-
I started the meeting by splitting the teens up for the games.
Game 1- Pilgrim Rubber Duckie Bowling
I arrange 12 cups turned upside down in the same way as you would arrange bowling pins. I put a pilgrim rubber duckie on the top of each cup. I used blue painters tape to make an alley (not too wide, about 1 foot or 1.5 foot only). I gave each member of each team 1 chance to bowl. Their bowling ball was the can of cranberry sauce. However many duckies hit the floor, that is how many points they get. Duckie Pins were reset after each teen’s turn, and total number of duckies knocked down after everyone in both teams has a turn, wins! I gave out prizes to every member of the winning team.
Game 2- Cranberry Bounce
I took a regular 3×8 long table and put it in the center of the room. I arranged the cups (open side up) in a triangle formation in the middle of the table. Each member of each team had 1 minute to bounce as many fresh cranberries as they could and get them into the cups. (harder than it sounds) I give each teen a bowl of cranberries so they can access them quickly and get as many bounces in a minute as possible. I also have two teens on either side of the table to retrieve rogue cranberries which do not make it into the cups (most of them!) This way, it is quicker and less mess to clean up after. I add each teen’s total amount in the cup and the team with the most cranberries in the cup after everyone has a turn, wins! Prizes were also given to each member of the winning team.
My teens had a BLAST with these two games, and once complete, it was discussion time!
STORY & DISCUSSION
I began by asking the teens if they knew their history. Who was at the First Thanksgiving? What did they eat? Where was it held? Etc. Then, I informed them that they were actually ‘incorrect’ and that I had the REAL story of Thanksgiving. I read them the story listed below, in it’s entirety. (Disclaimer- I found this story by mistake when I was googling ideas for Thanksgiving Discussions. I have no idea who the author is, and I do not take credit for it. It was listed as ‘Author Unknown’ where I found it, and although I have no idea who wrote it, he/she is brilliant and I wish I could give them credit!)
The First ‘Official’ Thanksgiving-A Story of Two Bros
I know what you’re thinking. The first Thanksgiving involved Pilgrims and Turkey and other stuff (ing). I’ve got news for you; The REAL first Thanksgiving (on record) happened not hundreds, but thousands of years ago.
Here is how it went:
At harvest time, Cain brought to The Lord a gift from his farm, produce. While Abel brought several choice lambs from the best of his flock. The Lord accepted Abel and his offering, but he did not accept Cain and his offering. This made Cain very angry and dejected. “Why are you so angry?” The Lord asked him. “Why do you look so dejected? You will be accepted if you respond in the right way. But, if you refuse to respond correctly, then watch out! Sin is waiting to attack and destroy you, and you must subdue it.” (Genesis 4:3-6)
One Thanksgiving, two men, two offerings, and two totally different reactions. The Lord was looking for both of them to realize who God was and who God was not. So, He invented the first Thanksgiving by asking them to bring an offering to praise Him. There are many theories behind why God rejected Cain’s offering, but the point is that there was obviously a mind-set problem that didn’t set well with The Lord. Able, however, gave his offering with a grateful heart, which is why God smiled back at him.
This is the time of year when we reflect on life and respond with being thankful, but let’s not forget that God cares very much about the ATTITUDE behind the GRATITUDE! So, the main question you need to ask yourself is, “Am I more like Cain, or Abel?”
Here’s what Thanksgiving would look like for Cain in ‘today’s world’-
He get’s up, and is mainly looking forward to gorging himself on free food. He is thankful for a few days off from school or work, but mainly, because he likes to be lazy. At the table, he wants to be served first, and when it comes time to praise God before the meal, his mind wanders to what is going on with the football game or getting together with friends later. After the meal, his family gathers to have a time of sharing about things for which they are thankful. He is annoyed that he’s stuck with a family that has to do such cheesy things, and wishes he didn’t have to participate in any of these silly activities. Eventually, the day ends and finally he utters a quick prayer to God. Thanking Him for…what was it again? Oh yeah, all the cool stuff he has! This kind of thanksgiving is like wax fruit in a bowl. It looks real on the outside, but in reality, it is fake and useless and that is why God rejects it.
Abel, on the other hand, remembers that even the air he breathes is a gift from God. He knows that if there is anything good in his life, it is directly from the hand of God. So, his focus during Thanksgiving is to take the energy he would normally devote to school or work and direct it towards thanking God and serving others. So, he is quick to help his mom set the table and clean up afterwards. He is intentional in listening to others and active in participating in family traditions. At the end of the day, he makes a list of all the blessings of God and thanks Jesus for each and every one of them. Heartfelt thankfulness has an amazing effect. It give us hope, turns our eyes on Jesus, and protects us from sin.
DiscussionAfter reading the story, we discussed in great detail the difference between Cain and Abel’s offerings and also their ‘attitudes’. And, don’t you just love when God just happens to throw something in on ya….That morning at mass, our priest spent quite a deal of time during his Homily talking about the ATTITUDE of GRATITUDE! (No lie, this really happened!) We discussed how it is easy to say “I’m Thankful for my Parents, Life, Friends, Faith, etc.” But, how often are our answers are like ‘wax fruit’ mentioned in the story? We automatically utter things we think others expect us to be thankful for. We don’t always search our hearts for what we are truly thankful for. (ie. My iphone screen not shattering when I dropped my phone, passing my math test, not getting caught staying out past curfew, etc.) In today’s world of internet and social media, and with so many participating in the “Thirty Days of Thanks” it is easy to just ramble off things without putting much thought into it. I asked each teen if he/she thought they were more like Cain or Abel. I had mostly Cain’s, a few in betweens, and only 1 Abel in the room! Here are some additional discussion questions- How can you show God that you are truly thankful this Thanksgiving? How long of a list could you make of ways that God has blessed your life? Are you more like Cain or Abel? From now until Thanksgiving Day, can you challenge yourself every day and search your heart for things you are TRULY thankful for, and not just what sounds good in a facebook or twitter post?
How it went:With both my High School and Middle School teens, we had a wonderful discussion. They all really like the story and how it put Cain and Abel into modern times so that they could truly understand. They all seemed to really ‘get’ the difference between being Thankful and TRULY THANKFUL with a proper attitude and heartfelt thought behind it. Obviously, the games were a lot of fun, and they enoyed that as well. But, I am happy to report that in the two days since, I have seen quite a difference in their ‘Thirty Days of Thanks’ posts on social media sites. (: Don’t ya just love when a plan comes together? And, when you can benefit from it as well…(What have I thanked God for today….???) Should you choose to share this story or meeting idea with your group, please send me a note and let me know how it went for you! Wishing you all a truly blessed Thanksgiving! Jenn