What Are You Giving for the Holidays?

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I have two friends who have what seems to me a slightly odd annual tradition: at the end of each year, they work to list things they are grateful for—one for every calendar year! So this year, their list will include 2,021 entries. They say that the first few hundred are easy enough, but that beyond that, the going gets increasingly tough. Yet they persevere until they reach the year’s number, or occasionally go beyond it (!). Then they pore over the list, analyzing it and, literally, counting their blessings.

I thought of these friends and their tradition last week when I corresponded with a writing teacher in Galveston. He described being worn out from a heavy day of work (he teaches six classes, after all) but deciding, in spite of everything, to stop by the Writing Center. There, to his surprise and delight, he found a number of his students from different classes, all working away on their writing. That they were doing so in spite of multiple out-of-school obligations and needs lifted his spirits: and the photo he sent me of this scene lifted mine as well. This teacher, passionate about his underserved and underprivileged—and deeply underestimated—students, is someone I am thankful for this year. It strikes me that he and his students are involved in mutual gift-giving of a very high order.

These two anecdotes have me thinking, this holiday season, of the gifts I am giving, and receiving. Not just the material gifts—toys, books, and so on. But the gifts of love and friendship and learning and togetherness. So I am making a list of gifts, both given and received, that are most meaningful to me this year. And I think this would make a very fine assignment for students everywhere: no matter our circumstances, to take some time to write about what we are giving others and others are giving us that is most significant, most deeply meaningful, at this particular moment in our lives.

Image Credit: "Christmas Presents" by Ravi_Shah, used under a CC BY 2.0 license

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About the Author
Andrea A. Lunsford is the former director of the Program in Writing and Rhetoric at Stanford University and teaches at the Bread Loaf School of English. A past chair of CCCC, she has won the major publication awards in both the CCCC and MLA. For Bedford/St. Martin's, she is the author of The St. Martin's Handbook, The Everyday Writer and EasyWriter; The Presence of Others and Everything's an Argument with John Ruszkiewicz; and Everything's an Argument with Readings with John Ruszkiewicz and Keith Walters. She has never met a student she didn’t like—and she is excited about the possibilities for writers in the “literacy revolution” brought about by today’s technology. In addition to Andrea’s regular blog posts inspired by her teaching, reading, and traveling, her “Multimodal Mondays” posts offer ideas for introducing low-stakes multimodal assignments to the composition classroom.