Beyond the exchange of gifts and the decadent feasts, the holidays offer a prime opportunity to come together and make a positive difference. It’s important not to lose sight of the real importance of the season amid all the excitement and festivities. This year, we’re reminded that the holidays are not just an opportunity to give back to those closest to us, but also an opportunity to enrich the lives of our broader communities.
From campus-based volunteering initiatives to creative acts of kindness, let’s unwrap the true meaning of the season by fostering a sense of compassion and community.
Giving can be about more than money, it can also be about the time you dedicate to helping others. This is what makes volunteering so powerful. Many organizations and campuses sponsor community events throughout the month to support those in need. This can be anything from toy drives for children, care packages for the military overseas, food drives, to visits to a nursing home. You can choose a cause that resonates with you and find attainable ways for you to support it. You may also consider registering for a volunteer position sometime during the “off” season in January or February. Many people remember to give during December but forget to give back during the rest of the year — committing to serve throughout the year can have a massive impact.
If you can’t find a volunteer opportunity that you are passionate about, consider it an opportunity for you to start your own charity event or organization. You can discuss setting up a drive or local community event with your campus leaders or your community representatives to address the need that you noticed was unsupported.
Making a positive impact doesn't always require in-person involvement. You can contribute to causes beyond your community by volunteering remotely. If you want to directly help your fellow students, you may consider doing online tutoring or mentoring with your peers. While monetary donations will always go a long way, it’s often the helping hand and supportive shoulder that people will remember most of all.
Random Acts of Kindness
An act of kindness comes in many forms. Not every act of kindness has to be a grand gesture, and the little things can add up:
- As you drive to work or school, consider letting someone merge in front of you or pay for the coffee of the person behind you in line.
- Go out to lunch with one of your coworkers or classmates.
- If you know that a challenging exam is coming up, you may decide to bring some donuts to class to cheer everyone up.
- Maybe wait a few extra seconds to hold the door open for someone behind you or shovel your neighbor's driveway before school.
You can also utilize social media to highlight positive stories and encourage others to share in the positivity. We want these moments to be done honestly and authentically, not in a way where it feels like it's being done and captured on social media to get views or clicks. It's about the actions, not the applause.
If you know a small business or school that others would appreciate, you could share some of their content on your social media platforms. This is supportive of both the business and your friends. An act of kindness can even be as simple as connecting with someone you haven’t seen in a while and checking up on them. No matter how small it may seem, one act can make a lasting difference for those around you.
Say “Thank You”
We may feel gratitude, but how often do we express it? Make it a special point to say “thank you” to those you work with, study with, and interact with. There is so much to be grateful for, such as a teacher’s advice, a friend’s positivity, or your parents’ support. Take the time to tell them how much they mean to you or consider writing a heartfelt note expressing how you feel.
You can extend your gratitude to those outside of your immediate circle. Many people work throughout the holidays such as essential care workers whom you can thank for their service. These jobs, while important and impactful, can sometimes be thankless. You can brighten someone’s day by extending a well-deserved thank you.
Support your community by shopping close to home!
Even if your idea of “home” is different than where you grew up, enriching the town you call home starts with local support. Prioritize shopping from small or local businesses and invest in your community. Home is where the heart is, after all. There are many people in need that you can help through your volunteer work or drives. This sense of community extends beyond your home and encompasses your campus community as well.
The holiday season involves a variety of different cultural celebrations, each with its own traditions. However, you choose to celebrate, take advantage of the opportunity to learn more about other people and how they rejoice in the season of giving. And, when you can, open your celebrations up to those with different backgrounds. By doing so, you’re fostering a collective sense of acceptance and kindness, sharing the inclusive spirit of the holidays with everyone around you. It’s also important to remember that the holidays don’t have to have any significant religious or cultural ties to be special. Share the warmth of the holiday season by extending the love and kindness of the holiday spirit to everyone.
Every one of us has the power to make positive change in our communities by giving back. Through actions big and small, we are collectively creating a kinder, stronger, and healthier tomorrow. We wish you and yours the happiest holiday season and an amazing new year!