“Row the Boat” is the mantra of the Minnesota Gophers football team as instituted by their coach P.J. Fleck. It is a theme being repeated nationally with most people having no idea what it means. It is a great theme to be blended with the meaning of Thanksgiving: Give thanks and row the boat.

In general the theme means don’t ever give up, keep rowing.

When rowing the boat your back is to the future. You can do nothing to change the future, the unknown future. That takes trust.

Rowing the boat requires work. To achieve and progress takes work. Give thanks you can relate to the unknown future and work your way to and through it. Give thanks that though you can’t see the future, there is a God who can. Thank Him for the blessing of productive work. Yes, work. You can get nowhere without work.

Charlie Tremendous Jones, internationally known motivation speaker, told me the secret of success summed up in two words. It is: “Nothing works.” If anything worked, some indifferent sluggards would be successful. Nothing works, you must work it. Give thanks for the opportunity to work for your future.

Second, to row the boat requires energy in the present. You have to determine if you are going to pull your oars out of the water and give up or just keep working in the present, which is the only thing you can control. Stick with the task even when you can’t see the future. Give thanks for the opportunity to strive for success. Don’t quit.

Third, when rowing the boat you are facing backwards, the past. Learn from it, the successes and failures. Let it teach you what works and what doesn’t. Learn what work to do and the energy required and just keep rowing. Be thankful for lessons learned in the past.

Our forefathers confronted an unknown future, expended the appropriate energy to progress. Looking back they saw their successes and failures and, amid difficulty, paused to give thanks. They didn’t give up, they just kept rowing the boat. As a result we enjoy the blessings of today. They bequeathed us a wonderful legacy.

There are emerging generations watching how faithfully we keep rowing the boat. Currently the older generation is watching to see if younger generations will put their hands on the oar and even if they will not give up, but keep rowing.

What would America be like today if the Pilgrims had put down the oars during their deprivation? What if Washington had put down the frosty oars at Valley Forge? What would America be like had the GIs quit rowing on the bloody Flanders Field, or on the hellish beaches of Normandy or Okinawa?What would it be like had Martin Luther King Jr. quit rowing in the dark days of segregation?

We have many admirable examples of our faithful forebears, with their backs to an unknown future, who kept rowing against all odds.

Our past is punctuated with national, state and local proclamations proposing occasions of giving thanks. There were often made at times, their unknown future posed as threatening. Instead they kept rowing the boat.

How about you personally? Even if your unknown future is ominous, unknown, and uncertain, just “Keep Rowing the Boat.” The rest of us have reason to row and give thanks for the honor of doing so.

The Rev. Nelson Price is pastor emeritus of Roswell Street Baptist Church in Marietta.


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