The Gift

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The holidays are upon us and with it the promise of gifts. Lewis Hyde in his book The Gift, first published in 1983, and never out of print, offers a thoughtful exploration on gifts. Gift giving and gratitude for the gift are  common human activities. A gift can be as simple as holding a door open or as opulent as a potlatch, a ceremonial feast of Indians living on our northwest coast, where possessions are given away. Gifts are part of the culture of Christmas, Halloween, Día de los Muertos, Hanukkah, Diwali and many other holidays.

Gift giving creates a bond, an obligation and reciprocation. Emily Post calls it etiquette. Lawyers use the term “quid pro quo.” American Indians shared a gift of a peace pipe to ensure a peaceful coexistence. At the potlatch, the giver doesn’t just give gifts, he expects to elevate his status in the community. When invited to dinner, a guest usually brings a gift. When politicians vote, they often expect support in return.

Lewis Hyde’s book is a cult classic among writers and artists because it argues that the community should give back to artists who gift us with their talents. Artists who cannot provide a living by their artistry should receive monetary support from the community.

In Suffield, we are the recent recipients of another sort of gift. After almost five years, Suffield has given us a renovated and revitalized Kent Memorial Library with programs, books and resources open to all. Since the library returned to 50 North Main Street, circulation statistics have increased by 28% compared to our Ffyler Place days. But this new library deserves more. For example, the number of people who hold library cards has actually decreased by 3%. Statistically, a surprisingly small number of Suffield residents are card holders. The population of Suffield (discounting the inmates in town, who cannot have cards) is 13,698 according to 2017 figures. With only 6,100 Suffield library patrons, only 44% of us, less than half the population of Suffield, participate in our library community compared to a national rate of 68%. And even though we have added 350 Suffield library patrons since last July, a significantly larger number did not renew their membership. So, here’s my wish this holiday season during my final month as director of the library: if you live in Suffield and don’t have a card, support the library by getting or renewing your library card today. 

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