The generous sharing of valuable personal resources forms the basis for solid and fulfilling relationships. From the “Wanna cookie?” offered from one small child to another, to “Wow! You’ve got to read this book!” among close friends when just a few years older, sharing is part of the ongoing exchange of affection and admiration that builds and fortifies connections between individuals, groups, families, and communities.
The act of giving also benefits the giver and receiver. When done freely and with good will, giving can be affirming and empowering. Receiving an offering or gift with grace can provide an opportunity to practice vulnerability and humility.
Gifts are lovely of course, but just loaning a few bucks, a badly needed tool or a treasured book to someone can have these same strategic and emotional impacts. Like all giving, the loaning of a book, handing that well-worn copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone or Charlotte’s Web to a bright eyed youngster is a risk, like that taken by a parent tossing the car keys to a teenager. While it is a little iffy, it is less a gamble than it is an investment in the recipient and in the relationship with them.
Another benefit of giving is the example it sets. A person’s generous actions are models for what others might do, and the pleasure they display in seeing their contributions accepted with enthusiasm increases the likelihood of the recipient then “paying it forward.”
Books and reading, though apparently solitary activities, are just extensions of and precursors to shared emotion and experiences, becoming common referents in conversations, arguments and every sort of fulfilling interaction.
I’ve written before about how bookshelves are where books go to die. Rather than fade away on a shelf, a dusty tome can be a treasure on which someone who has read it can look and recall warm memories, and then share that heartfelt joy with others, magnifying a book’s importance, and nurturing good fortunes and experiences together.
Sharing evolves into connection during debriefings among book club members and those who discover having read the same book (or seen the same movie, or play, or viewed the same artwork). With each iteration that an individual read is shared, discussed and passed along, the community from which all of those participants come is strengthened.
Parents and teachers must start early to lead excited children to trumpet their latest delightful book finds to siblings and classmates, and to demonstrate for less experienced or dedicated readers precisely what they are missing and can freely enjoy by merely reaching out an accepting hand. Neighbors with children should at a minimum be gifted with the possibility of positively influencing their own children toward the book-lined path to success in school and life.