We There Yet?
An Intergenerational Thanksgiving Service
Adapted from the story,
“How Many Days To America?”
by Eve Bunting and Beth Peck
This is a story which depicts the sacrifice and hardship that goes into holding fast to our beliefs, taking responsibility for those in our care and building better lives. It also helps point out the people and events in our history that have made such sacrifices and to whom we owe our thanks.
The seating is circular. The chalice is in the middle of the opening. There is a floor mic in a small clearing with a chair next to it.
There is a fold up table with a tablecloth, a cardboard boat to the side, four loaves of bread and four chalices (goblets) with a pitcher of juice are on the counter. There are sacks with clothing and jewelry and there is bread and fruit in a sack on the counter.
STORY PART I (Opening)
(Stage is open except
for a small table in the front.
The chalice is close to Karen with
the microphone and chair.
All other props are on the counter.)
Life was nice on the small
island where Angel and his sister Jessica lived. They enjoyed growing up close to
the beach surrounded by their whole family. With their mother and father they
lived only steps away from their Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles and cousins.
father worked in the fields gathering food.
in the family worked at the beach and fished with nets.
Saturdays they all went to the market.
everything they did, they did together.
cooked together, sang together, cleaned together, played together.
even helped each other build each other’s houses together.
Outside the house there
was a big field where the children played.
of coconut trees stood by the window and there was a hammock stretched across two
A tree house
was built where you could sit and watch the waves come in off the beach.
afternoon all the workers came to the house and Angel’s father and uncle would
play chess on a wooden crate by the doorway.
evening, after supper, everyone would play guitar and sing and the grandparents
would tell stories about the many generations of life on the island.
seemed like it had always been this way.
all Angel could imagine.
thought it would stay exactly the same until he was old and told stories to his
But that was not to be.
early in November, everything changed.
the day the soldiers came to the village.
At first the soldiers
stayed in the harbor by the fishing boats.
there were only a few of them.
days passed the number of soldiers increased and they began to appear in town.
after that many shops began to close.
mornings in a row Angel and Jessie awoke to find out that another one of their
friends had left home during the night.
they arrived at school and found that it had been closed.
home to tell their parents.
heard their mother’s voice calling them even before they arrived at their house.
into the house with your sister,” their mother said.
(Angel and Jessie hide
behind the table)
It was then they realized
that their village - indeed, their whole world - was a very different place then
never had to hide before and they began to feel afraid.
wondered if what their parents had been whispering to one another in the evenings
was true: that THEIR family would soon have to leave too.
was so, Angel wondered, where would they go?
Soon after the soldiers
came to Angel’s village everything changed.
Instead of playing outside in the
fields, Mother said he and his sister had to stay inside.
No one played music in the evenings.
There were no games after dinner.
Mostly everyone sat very still,
talked softly and listened carefully.
This is what they were doing
on the night the soldiers came to the house.
When Angel’s Father saw
them coming, he whispered something to their Mother.
She ran over to her children, took
them by the hand and told them to hide under the bed.
(Angel and Jessie hide
underneath the table)
Angel and Jessie did as
their mother said, but let the covers hang over their heads so they could peek
through the open space at the bottom.
They saw their mother’s black
slippers and the great, big, muddy feet of the soldiers as they walked in and out
of the house.
They were talking very loudly.
They could see their father making
sure that he was always able to stand between the soldiers and their mother.
Finally, when soldiers had
left, Angel’s father brought their mother into the bedroom and called the
children to come up from underneath the bed.
“We must leave right now!” their
“Why?” Angel asked.
“Because we do not think
the way they think, my son.
I cannot explain so that you would
All I can tell you is that we must
leave and leave in a hurry!”
As everyone began to get
ready for the journey, their father told them they could only take but a single
change of clothes.
Their mother cried.
“Leave all my things?
The pictures of our wedding?
My chair, where I sat to nurse our
The bedcover that my mother made,
every stitch by hand?
“Nothing,” said my
“Just money to buy our way to America.”
(Table is removed from
The word, “America”
was not new to the children.
They had heard it whispered before
by friends who had left our village earlier and by their parents in the restless
hours of the night.
As they gathered their small
sacks of possessions and moved out into the darkened streets they were joining
others who also carried small sacks of belongings, who also had left everything
they had known behind.
No one made a sound.
[Music begins to play “We Shall Overcome” in
Angel knew their was
He didn’t know where they were
going but he understood they couldn’t stay.
But he also knew that somewhere,
somehow it would be okay.
THAT, he believed in his heart.
He would help make sure.
And as they walked down the street,
he grabbed hold of his sister’s hand.
“We Shall Overcome”
STORY PART III
set up on stage)
When Angel’s family
arrived down at the harbor, many boats bobbed up and down in the dark waters
Several families were there.
People of all ages stood side by
side with small bundles of possessions clutched tightly against their sides.
Men stood by the edge of the boats
and talked behind their hands while gold passed from one pocket to another.
Angel’s father, who stood next to
these men, came over to Angel and his mother.
“I must have your
wedding ring,” Angel’s father said quickly.
“And your garnets.”
Their mother said nothing.
Instead, she quietly took the ring from her finger.
Then she dug through the old sack
she carried and brought out a tiny little bag folded up at the bottom.
From it she removed a small garnet necklace
and laid it in the palm of her husband’s hand.
He was gone only a minute.
“We will leave while it
is still dark,” he said when he returned.
“How many days to
America?” Jessica asked.
“Not many,” her father
“Don’t be afraid.
After an hour, while it
was still dark, Angel’s father told them it was time to board the boat.
Jessica had fallen asleep and her mother carried her onto the fishing
Engines roared to life and the tiny
fishing boat, loaded with many people, motored loudly away from the harbor toward
the open ocean.
Jessica woke up.
Are we there yet, Papa?
Can we see America?” she asked.
“Not yet, my dear,”
her father replied.
An hour from shore, with
the land hardly visible in the new day’s dawning, the motors stopped.
A worried look came over their
Men crowded around the engines.
“A part is broken that
cannot be fixed,” Angel’s father said, and as she heard this their mother’s
face twisted the way it did when she closed the door of their home for the last
But no one gave up.
Everybody worked together to make a
sail by knotting clothes together.
When they pulled it high onto the
mast Angel and Jessica could see their father’s Sunday shirt blowing in the
But the sail carried them back to
their own shore and as they waded closer, men began to shoot at them from the
When they turned the boat around
toward the open ocean, the shooting stopped.
“Are we there yet?”
“No.” her father
“How long, Papa?” she
“A little while
longer,” he told her and he held us all close.
Jessica felt better when she felt
her father’s arms around her, even if she did see him look over at her mother
with tears in his eyes.
Most of our lives include a story like this. A story about us. A story where many of our ideals and expectations came to an unexpected end. Many of us have known a time where something terrible visited our lives, something that we did not ask for or deserve. We’ve known circumstances that have left us no choice but to change the way we lived, or loved, or looked out toward the future. Most of our lives include a story like this.
Most of our lives include a time where we were asked to sacrifice something dear, leave it behind. Many of us have endured a difficult road to help insure a better time for those we loved. Most of us have had moments where it seemed like everything we were counting on conked out, stopped working and we ended up feeling like we were cast out to sea, steering away from all that was familiar. We have known moments where our best things could do no more for us than flap in the breeze.
Whether or not the details of this story matches our own life, it is important to realize that someone in our family’s past endured some struggle in order for their lineage to survive. Some only need to trace back a few years to remember the Soviet breakup or the Velvet revolution. Some family’s history may have been influenced by the Asian reforms, by the Holocaust, by the English or Dutch Puritans looking for economic and religious opportunities. Others may have simply been forced to migrate to the cities when the rural opportunities for farming became scarce. This country was founded by some who were seeking opportunity and others escaping tragedy. Our own family roots may hold a little bit of both.
Let us take a moment of silence remembering those who came before us. Those whom we have known, others whose lives and choices we can only imagine. We only need to think of them for a moment to remember our debt, to understand the gratitude we owe them.
Let us keep silence together.
JOYS AND CONCERNS
(Boat is removed. Table is set up upon which there are four bowls and four chalices. There will be two loaves of bread and one pitcher of grape juice)
In everyone’s life there are moments where we come face to face with brokenness (break the bread) and with life’s sweetness (pour the juice). Our strength as a community comes when we recognize our ability to share these moments with those who help give them meaning. This morning, as we come forward to share our joys and concerns let us take a moment to consecrate these symbols. Speaking our concerns from our seats, we will take some bread, break off a piece and place it in one of these bowls. with our joys, we will pour this grape juice into one of these four chalices.
Let us imagine ourselves in a toast for all the joys
left unshared today.
And for those concerns too tender to
escape the silent sanctuary of our hearts, let us remember that the most
nourishing thing we can offer those in need is when we share a piece of our own
life and a place in our own community.
STORY PART IV
(Table is pushed back.
Boat is returned.)
Day followed night and
night followed day.
ran out even though many of the people on the boat had hardly eaten.
sunset, everyone huddled close together in the bow of the boat.
mother, sensing that her children were becoming frightened, began to sing.
[Music begins and choir
helps sing “We Shall Overcome,” softly]
Soon, their father began
others on the boat.
few minutes, Angel and Jessie began to sing, like they used to back home.
a while, they all felt safe.
But the waves and the wind
did the hunger.
everyone took turns fishing off the side of the boat and shared the catch.
rained they caught the water in buckets and saved it to drink.
Often great whales and
porpoises would swim close to the small fishing boat.
would swim around and round and the children would get excited.
push us whale!” Angel’s mother shouted.
us to America.”
whales did not hear.
Early one morning there
was the shout of “Land!” and everyone on the boat crowded close to the
when they pulled on the sail, the boat would go no closer to the shore.
was shallow and they were grounded on sand.
“We will swim for
help,” Angel’s father said and he and two others jumped into the dark water.
“No!” his mother
But they were already
After a great while, those
on the boat saw them begin to rise up on the green roll of the surf.
they made it to shore everyone danced and cheered.
soon as they walked up onto the sand, several soldiers appeared above them on the
was quiet and Angel’s mother drew her children close to her.
are bringing them back,” she whispered.
The three men were brought
back in a smaller boat with an outboard motor.
were escorted by three soldiers with rifles.
pulled up alongside the fishing boat and Angel’s father and the other two joined
soldiers began handing the people water and fruit and other food.
not speak, or even smile, as they tossed it up to the waiting hands.
quickly as they came, the soldiers sat down in their boat and motored away.
“Was this not the right
land, Papa?” Angel asked his father.
it not do?”
“It would do,” he
they would not take us.”
Jessica tugged at his arm.
don’t like us?” she asked.
“It’s not that.”
stopped and looked sadly at their mother.
not finish explaining why they could not stay.
Angel’s family got two
papayas and three lemons and a coconut with milk that tasted like flowers.
was rough that night and the voices of the people that sang was almost lost in the
[Music starts and the choir comes in very
softly singing, “We Shall All Be Free....We shall all be free, someday..”]
Angel and Jessica forced
their mouths to speak the words as the stars dipped and turned above their heads.
“Deep in my heart, I do
believe, that we shall all be free, someday.”
In another few days, when
their food was almost gone, they spotted another boat roaring close.
another small boat with a motor. For a moment everyone was filled with joy.
food!” one person said.
will show us where we can go!” another shouted.
as the men in the boat pulled up close, everyone could see that their faces were
covered and they carried pistols and rifles.
a tense moment, fear moved like a bad wind among all the people.
The thieves in the other
boat scrambled aboard the stern of the fishing boat and all the people moved to
began waving their guns and shouting for money and jewels.
was little to take, but what the people had, went with them as they returned to
their small boat and roared away.
(Boat is removed.
Linda, Jim, Karen and Jessie collect
Perhaps right after a ring of thieves rob a struggling band of refugees is not the best time for a church to collect it’s offering. But there is also something important to say here. We live in a world that is often unfair. It can often demand much, offer little and end up robbing us of many things. But when we let the world rob us of our generosity, we have let it make off with something that is truly irreplaceable. We will now receive this mornings offering.
For the work of the church, which keeps our spirits afloat in stormy seas, we accept this, our offering, and make of ourselves, a community.
STORY PART V
On the very next day,
after an evening when few people sang, Angel and his family awoke and began to
They cut open their last lemon and
shared it with another family.
And as he cast his line out to sea,
Angel’s father sighted land.
But all the people were too afraid
They looked out to the tree lined shore with cautious optimism.
(Bill gets up - with his engineer hat - and
comes toward the boat as though he is
captaining a tugboat.
He circles the boat twice and throws
down a rope.)
A boat came. A large boat,
much bigger then the fishing boat.
Angel’s mother clasped her hands
and bent her head.
Was she afraid to hope too?
The man driving the boat
looked over to the people huddled close together in the fishing boat who looked
cautiously back at him.
He circled them twice.
He shut off his engine and then
walked to the side of the railing and smiled.
He threw down a rope which was tied
to the bow of the fishing boat and the big boat pulled the little one to the
There was silence among
the families on the boat as they arrived: an anxious, watchful silence.
People waited on the dock.
(Diantha begins to wave,
then greets people and eventually ushers them toward the table.)
“Welcome,” they called
as the many people stepped upon land for the first time in many days.
“Welcome to America.”
That was when the silence
turned to cheers.
(As people step out of
boat, boat is removed and table is set up.
On the table is placed the four
loaves of bread, the four chalices and the pitcher of juice.)
“But how did you know
that we would come today?” Angel’s father asked.
“Perhaps people come
every day,” his mother replied.
“Perhaps they understand how it is
People on the shore came
out of their homes when they saw the tiny boat arrive.
Those who were sick were helped off
and taken to beds where they could lay down and receive medicine.
The people were led away from the
shore where there was a large shed, warm from the sun shining down on its tin
People were standing in the doorway
of the shed greeting them and encouraging them to go inside.
Inside, there was a table.
At first Angel and his family thought it was too small to hold all of
the people who came, but somehow they managed to make room for everyone.
On the table was food.
More food than any of them had seen
in a long while.
“Do you know what day it
is?” a woman asked Angel as she passed him a dinner plate.
“It is the coming to
America Day,” he replied.
“Yes,” she smiled.
“That is true.
But it is special for another
Today is Thanksgiving.”
Thanksgiving?” Jessica asked happily as food began to come her way.
“Long ago, unhappy
people came here to start new lives,” the woman spoke.
“Many of them were sad to leave,
and feared they would not find a place that would welcome them.
Many others could not come
themselves, but sent their children, and their children’s children.
Some came for safety.
Some came for freedom.
Some for opportunity.
But as they arrived, they did two
they ate together and they gave
They realized that just as the food
nourished them and allowed them to survive, so did the people who helped them and
loved them and taught them and sacrificed for them every day along their journey.
“We have much to be
thankful for” Angel’s father responded.
And as he said this, the
others at the table bowed their head in prayer.
PRAYER OF AFFIRMATION
Let us join together in the spirit of prayer. Spirit of Life and Love, Thou who leads us through the toils and snares of this life, revealing joy in unexpected places, we are grateful for this community which receives and nurtures us week in and week out. When we are tired and worn, when we have exhausted our last efforts and expended all hope of getting ourselves to this present moment, we are fed and nourished by the faces among us who keep us steady and welcome our arrival. They let us know that it is okay to be weary. They remind us that it’s okay to be sad when our dreams have been stolen from us. They stand ready and reveal to us a table that is already set, a table where we will again be nourished, where we can recall the feelings of comfort and joy and remember that it is only as far away as our nearest friend. Spirit of Life and Love, thank you for this chance to share our gratitude. There is much in this life to be thankful for. Amen.
HYMN 407 “We’re Gonna Sit At
The Welcome Table”
Even in the earliest communities food was a way of giving thanks. It was offered as sacrifice. It was eaten in remembrance. In some faiths it is often used as a sacrament for salvation. As Unitarian Universalists, many of us recognize that our salvation comes about by the mutual care and concern of the people around us. Our strength as a community comes from our ability to hold and sustain the joys and sorrows that make up the individual lives among us. Though we all, at times, may recognize the brokenness [hold up the bread] and the sweetness [hold up the juice] of our own lives, the meaning we carry with us comes from what we, and our communities, can make from these moments and memories. This morning, we celebrate a new kind of communion. One that does not replace the meaning of communions of our past. But one that is taken in addition to them. A communion of gratitude, of giving and receiving, one with another. This is an open communion. You need not be a member of this community to share in this. And we understand if your own beliefs and history ask you not to participate. We are grateful for your presence among us just the same. Now, in the manner that our family in the story has shared this bread and juice, we offer the opportunity to share this communion with one another as a community.
In the days that followed,
Angel and his family began building a life for themselves in this new country.
was sadness in the early going.
were family and friends that did not make the journey and whom they missed dearly.
they were part of a new community.
people on the boat who shared their hardships became forever dear for they had
shared something inevitable and unforgettable.
people who welcomed them earned their thanks and their trust.
struggles which brought them to this new place, in the end, made them closer.
Every year, they stopped
and remembered this day, by sharing a meal with others and giving thanks.
strange way, this journey - fraught with hardship and sacrifice - became dear to
it they learned perseverance and courage, patience and trust, the meaning of
sharing and a steady resolve to move into the future with an unwavering love and
an abiding faith.
[Music begins to play
“I’m On My Way” softly in the background]
This community has faced many struggles and found ways to rise above the tests and traumas and see the joy on the far side. Our work with Discovery Hall is a case in point. Though sacrifice has been part of this journey, we have found ways, and great cause, to celebrate in the end. It is almost done. And though the pull is strong, we have resisted from shouting out loud, “Aren’t we there yet?!?!” But instead we have kept calling out, “I’m On My Way.” Join us as we make our way over there to dedicate our new building. And sing with us as we go.
“I’m On My Way”