When cause-and-effect met humanity

Jim Blasingame

As the 17th century dawned, cause-and-effect was merging two parallel universes.

In the Old World, a group of Leiden Separatists was making decisions that would put them on a circuitous journey. Meanwhile, in the New World, a manchild named Tisquantum was born to the Patuxet tribe of the Wampanoag Indians.

Both the Separatists and Tisquantum became very important to the future of mankind, but not before their lives would change and intertwine in ways not to be imagined by the inhabitants of either world.

In search of religious freedom, the Separatists crisscrossed Europe and then the Atlantic Ocean. On their odyssey, the Separatists would steel their convictions, which would prove handy in the New World.

Incredibly, first as a hostage and later as an interpreter, Tisquantum crossed the Atlantic six times. On his odyssey, Tisquantum learned Old World languages that, combined with his New World survival skills, would contribute to his rendezvous with destiny. 

During their journeys, both experienced a name change: The Leiden Separatists became Pilgrims and Tisquantum became Squanto. And as the Pilgrims prepared for their first Atlantic crossing, Squanto was making his last.

Arriving at his birthplace in 1619, Squanto made the shocking discovery that his entire family and village had been wiped out by a 1617 epidemic. On the day after Christmas, 1620, with the Mayflower Compact in hand, the Pilgrims came ashore at what is now Massachusetts. They named their new home Plymouth, after the English city where their voyage originated.

The Pilgrims' first winter in the New World was brutal; less than half of the 102 colonists survived to spring. Then on March 16th, an Indian named Samoset walked up to the Pilgrims and said, "Hello, English." Very soon he recognized that these sad-looking folks needed help from someone who spoke better English.

The two universes finally converged, and cause-and-effect met humanity, as Samoset brought Squanto to the Pilgrims. In one of the great moments in the annals of serendipity, it turns out that Plymouth was established on the very spot of Squanto's ill-fated village.

Squanto spent the rest of 1621 befriending the Pilgrims and teaching them how to survive in the New World. It's clear that his contribution was critical to the survival of these important American forebears.

When the courage and convictions of one group of individuals converged with the humanity of two others, something special happened: A critical part of the foundation of the most benevolent nation in history was born.

This week we give thanks for the contribution of these individuals and the blessings that followed and accrue to us 397 years later.

Write this on a rock ... Individuals demonstrating the best traits of humanity can make a difference. Happy Thanksgiving.

Jim Blasingame is the author of The 3rd Ingredient, the Journey of Analog Ethics into the World of Digital Fear and Greed.

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