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Girl reminds us the true meaning of Thanksgiving

November 22, 2018

My love of reading started as a child, and one of the books I remember reading and loving then was “Heidi” by Johanna Spyri.

Until rereading it recently, I didn’t have any solid recollections of the story except for there being a young girl who lived in the Swiss Alps. Essentially, that is the gist of the story, but like all great books that find a place in our hearts, there’s definitely more to the story than that.

You may wonder what possessed me to reread a book written for children. I’d say it was the confluence of two main things. First, I was given a bunch of Barnes and Noble gift cards for my birthday in September, so, naturally, I had to spend them.

On one of my visits to the store, I came upon a lovely hardbound new edition of the book; its cover simply stole my heart, and I remembered how much I’d enjoyed the book as a child, so I bought it.

Secondly, I was (and still am) very sad over the loss, mere days before my birthday, of my best friend for the past thirty-two years, so I felt the need to read something light and joyful to counteract my deep sorrow.

“Heidi,” both the novel and its title character, definitely has what it takes to lighten the reader’s soul. In the book, the young girl brings joy to countless people’s lives simply from her delight with everything around her.

Reading about her and the light she brought to so many different types of people took me back to a simpler and happier time in my own life when I was a child, and it also reminded me of all the good that remains even though my friend is gone.

I took special solace in this line from Chapter Fourteen: “The heart is comforted with the assurance that someday everything that we have loved will be given back to us.”

Heidi reminds us to be thankful for what we have, so I think reading it right before my favorite holiday, Thanksgiving, was quite fitting, too.

She could easily have bemoaned her orphaned existence and looked upon her lot as one of exile to a mountaintop with a grumpy grandfather she didn’t even know. Instead, she marveled at the simple furnishings in the small cabin and was thrilled to sleep on a bed of straw and spend her days helping the local goatherd, Peter, with the village goats.

The book shows us that one person can have a profound effect on so many, and we all benefit if that effect is for the better instead of the worse.

Because of Heidi, an old man learned to love again, a blind old woman heard her beautiful hymns again, a young invalid girl became healthy again, a grieving doctor gained a new family, and a lonely goatherd stopped being lonely. These are only a few of the people Heidi helped with her sunny disposition and positive outlook.

As I look ahead to tomorrow when I will spend the day with those I love, I will keep the blind old woman’s words, which are the final line of the book, in mind, and I hope some of you will, too. “‘I feel I can do nothing for the remainder of my life but thank the Father in Heaven for all the mercies he has shown us!’”

Happy Thanksgiving, and happy reading.

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Contact Marshall at tamreader@gmail.com.

Next month’s reading selection is “The Professor’s House” by Willa Cather.

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