Giving thanks on Thanksgiving

About the editor: Lizzy Muhammad, is the newly elected president of the Pennsylvania Association of Blind students. She is a junior International Studies major at Bryn Mawr College with a concentration in gender and a minor in Spanish. In this article, she talks about blind students having high expectations for themselves in the area of politeness and good manners

With Thanksgiving right around the corner, I am reminded of the etiquette lessons from my youth.  The common phrase, "What do you say?" probably rings a bell for most of us, but as we grow older a simple "thank you" is not always sufficient.  Some of these ideas may not be expected of us as students, but the Federation is all about raising expectations.  Whether you're spending the holidays with family, or going to someone else's house, try using some of these tips to show your appreciation, and ensure another invite.

If you are invited to someone's home, try to bring something the host might enjoy— a box of cookies, coffee or tea, something for the beloved family pet, or another small but thoughtful present.  There are so many ideas, (and they don't have to be expensive).  I'll never forget the time a professor invited me over. I was just so swamped that I hadn't had a chance to buy/make a gift.  I figured it wouldn't be that big of a deal since it was an informal invite—more of a doggy play date (for my guide dog) than entertainment for me.  A friend who I hadn't seen in a while was also invited. When we were all settled in and the dogs were running around happily she presented a box of chocolates to our hosts.  I felt terrible, but it was done with such grace that I just had to take it as a lesson learned— NEXT TIME MAKE TIME! The professor really didn't seem to care that I hadn't brought anything, but it's definitely appreciated when you do (and you're sure to not feel uncomfortable).

As blind students, I would argue that it's even a bit easier for us to make personalized, and much appreciated gifts because people love braille! Even if they don't always understand its importance, they're curious about it.  Take advantage of the opportunity to share the importance of braille literacy by making an alphabet card with a short brailled "thank you" note attached.  (Just make sure it includes their name because that's the first thing everyone wants to learn!) If you're going to a friend's house you can make braille playing cards, or add braille to a classic board game.  It's a nice family friendly gesture, and gives everyone an excuse to hangout over the holidays.  For a professional contact, a book that makes you think of them with a clear braille sticker that says their name is another great gift.  Or, if you want to give something warm and personalized that's not blindness related, anything homemade is great! (A knitted scarf or blanket, handmade jewelry, homemade hand soap, or a fresh batch of cookies all work well.) For personal contacts, only you can decide what is appropriate, but you can certainly use any of the ideas above.  Just remember; people appreciate it when you show appreciation.