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  • Writer's pictureBenay Hicks

You and me, today

Dear Friends,

My adult children have returned home for Thanksgiving, and it takes my breath away.

Kibble is flying as my oldest son goads our beloved Wonton into performing his classic tricks of speak and shake; boy and dog miss each other fiercely the rest of the year. My daughter just returned from rollerskating up and down our street, flush with the beauty of the autumn leaves that are conspicuously absent from her California college campus. My other son arrived on a plane from New York at midnight last night and is fast asleep upstairs as I write.

My Thanksgiving table will be full today. I hope the same is true of yours.

Earlier this week, I felt like I was limping toward this holiday. This has been a year that has nearly unmoored me from my optimism and sense of possibility. The news has felt unfathomable at times. As the most destructive wildfires in California’s history continue to burn, as we hear stories of families still not reunited following separation at the border, as the worst humanitarian crisis of the year unfolds in Yemen, as we struggle to make sense of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting and the other acts of violence too numerous to list, each its own utter tragedy, I am feeling battered and bruised. You may be, too.

Perhaps most of all, I am deeply troubled by the inexplicable denial of essential humanity that has become a foundation of social policy and public discourse. To have to fight for the idea that every life is precious, that every one of us is worthy of respect and love and a chance at a full and contributing life, is not something I thought we would ever have to do. The parameters of normal have shifted in profound and unconscionable ways.

So many times in the past year, as I have learned of transgressions on our shared humanity, I have struggled with whether to send an email out to you, my beloved Book Harvest family, reminding us that the work we do, the work of stories and literacy and unconditional support to families as they reach for their dreams for their children, can help in ways however small to right our listing ship. This has been a place of deep conflict for me: not to comment has felt at times like complicity, as if somehow I have accepted the unacceptable as a new normal. Yet I don’t want to clutter inboxes or overstay my welcome with you.

So, most times when I have wondered whether to share my thoughts, I have stayed silent.

Today, however, with my house full of adult children and goofy dog and laughter and love and the aromatic bou

nty of stuffing and pie, I am feeling strong again. The road ahead is ours to claim — child by child, book by book, with love and boldness and immense respect for everyone in our universe, and with a deep belief in the vast potential of every child to thrive.

Next week, we at Book Harvest will return to the thrilling and busy work of furthering our big dreams for our children and families. I will humbly ask you to consider including Book Harvest in your end-of-year giving; I will encourage you to mark your calendars for Dream Big, our glorious celebration of kids and books on MLK Day; I will continue to share the news of the book donors, volunteers, and literacy warriors who just this month helped us reach the milestone of one million books and to feel buoyed by the friends and allies who celebrated with us.

But for now, here is my wish for you and for me: that you turn off whatever device you are using to read this message; that you reach for a well-worn children’s book; that you gather those you love together (adult children included — there is no age limit on enjoying a children’s book), even for a few minutes, to share that book and to revel in the time with each other and with a beloved story; and that you breathe in the goodness of this moment, a moment of human connection and of the power of a good story to unite.

I am signing off now so that I may claim that wish for myself and my family. I hope that you are turning off your device and doing the same.

There is no finer Thanksgiving gift.

With love and gratitude and abundant hope for the road ahead,


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