Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Indians shared an autumn harvest feast.
For more than 200 years following that feast, days of thanksgiving were celebrated by individual states and colonies. Then in 1863, President Abraham Lincoln, in the midst of the Civil War, proclaimed a national Thanksgiving Day to be held each November.
Each year at Thanksgiving, the President of the United States receives a gift of a live turkey. At a White House ceremony, the president traditionally “pardons” the National Thanksgiving Turkey and any alternate turkeys, allowing them to live out the rest of their lives on a farm.
Most Americans have their own holiday traditions, but the most common tradition is that of gathering with family and friends to share stories, a meal and recount special moments of thanksgiving.
This is equally true in Bradley County, where celebrating a day of thanksgiving is more than a holiday about eating, but is often viewed as an opportunity to express appreciation for family and friends, life and liberty, and trust in God.
Tim Roberson, a financial sales specialist at Regions Bank in Cleveland, describes his family and parents as special blessings for which he is thankful.
“My wife, B.J., and I have been married for 12 years and have two wonderful boys — Ben, who is 9, and Sam, who is 5,” he said. “B.J. and I met while attending Lee College (now University) with me coming from Texas and B.J. from Virginia. We both decided to make Cleveland our home.
“We are a truly blessed family and there are so many things for which we can be thankful. To be honest, however, we would not be where we are today without the love and support of my parents, Wayne and Charlotte Roberson.
“They are selfless and giving, gracious and forgiving, always more than willing to help however and whenever they can. I can never fully thank them for all the ways they help with our boys and the love they’ve shown them as well as the memories they’ve created with them. For that and so much more, I am so very thankful at this time of year.”
Linda Morris-Avila, owner of Morris Consultant Services, said her gratitude spans from the time God wakes her up in the morning to when she goes to sleep, and everything else in between.
“I just recently had my 60th birthday and I thank God that He has brought me this far and taken care of me all these many years,” she said. “I’ve been involved in a lot of community activities and health care services. I’m just thankful that God has been part of my life, all of my life. I also thank God for my husband, Edgar, and our six children and four grandchildren.”
Robert E. Lee and his father, Milton Lee, lost their home in the April 27 tornadoes that ripped through Cleveland and their property on Hall-Norwood Road. For now the father and son, along with Robert’s family, are living in a modular home.
The Lees said they are truly thankful for the community support and people who helped them during their time time of need.
“This began a summer which we will never forget,” Robert said. “For the next three months we tore down our house by hand with the help of Connie Wright, the United Methodist Volunteers in Mission coordinator, and all the other groups that came to help.
“If it weren’t for all their hard work and time we would still be tearing down the house and living in a camper.”
American author Henry Van Dyke wrote, “Gratitude is the inward feeling of kindness received. Thankfulness is the natural impulse to express that feeling. Thanksgiving is the following of that impulse.”
In Cleveland, as in city after city across the country, people are not only counting their blessings, but showing their gratitude in word and deed, for all the things that make the giving of thanks more than one special day, but a way of life for all those grateful hearts filled with love, seasoned with cheer and warm appreciation.