Giving thanks

It seems like each year at Thanksgiving, everyone is grateful for the same things. At my family dinners, everyone goes around and says what they are thankful for, and usually the top contenders are family, shelter, and food—the basic necessities of life. Those things are important, and we should always express gratitude for them. But this year, why not mix things up a bit and think about some other gifts that are equally important? One thing that I’m grateful for this year is the gift of reading.

Reading? A gift? Yes! Sometimes we think of reading as just a skill or a useful tool. Think about reading for a minute, though. What would our lives be like without that skill? We wouldn’t be able to read a recipe or a cook book. We wouldn’t be able to read the road signs we see while driving. We wouldn’t be able to apply for loans or read our bank statements. We wouldn’t even be able to send texts to our friends! Not to mention the vast worlds of imagination that would be closed to us if we couldn’t read.

How did we receive this gift? For many of us, we’ve been reading for so long it feels like second nature. But we weren’t born reading. Someone had to help us, to teach us how to access that wonderful skill. Someone had to give us that gift. Too often, the people who taught us to read go unnoticed and un-thanked. All the way back in 1708—only a few decades after the first Thanksgiving—an influential New England minister named Cotton Mather expressed his own appreciation for educators and his concern that they were under-appreciated. “If we were duly sensible how vast a concern, how vast a comfort it is—to have well taught children—we should study all the ways imaginable to express our thankfulness to the teachers of them” (“A Discourse on the Good Education of Children”). In other words, if we really understood how important education is, we would never forget to be grateful to those people who contributed to our learning.

There are many people who helped give us the gift of reading. Favorite teachers, helpful librarians, and generous neighbors all helped. Parents, grandparents, and siblings all helped, too. For me, the most important givers of the gift of reading were my parents. As my sister and I were growing up, my parents would take turns reading to us each night. We didn’t always make it through an entire chapter—often either the reader or the audience would fall asleep during the reading, which made for a lot of great memories and half-finished sentences. Spending that time together reading taught me to love reading, and I will always be grateful to them for that.

In our Daily Herald article this week, several community members from Utah County expressed their gratitude for reading and those who gave them that gift. While each story was different, the gift of reading changed each individual’s life. Who has changed your life? Make sure, before you sit down to Thanksgiving dinner, that you thank them for giving you the gift of reading. As Cotton Mather reminds us, “they should be had in everlasting remembrance.”

Need some help finding ways to express your appreciation? Click here for a list of ways to thank different people in your life and here to check out some great ideas from Pinterest!