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The season of giving: Donating your time, money and love

by The Stylus
Tue, Nov 28th 2017 09:00 pm
Elliott LaPoint/EDITORIAL CARTOONIST
People are constantly using excuses to not volunteer their time or donate money and gifts during the holidays to help those in need.; however, it is not that hard to take a couple of hours out of your week or a couple dollars from your wallet to help those less fortunate than you.
Elliott LaPoint/EDITORIAL CARTOONIST People are constantly using excuses to not volunteer their time or donate money and gifts during the holidays to help those in need.; however, it is not that hard to take a couple of hours out of your week or a couple dollars from your wallet to help those less fortunate than you.

Although we haven’t had a full inch of snow stick to the ground for longer than a day, with Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday behind us, most would say that the holiday season is officially here. 

No matter what the majority of store fronts and television advertisements try to promote every year to the public, there is more than just Christmas to look forward to during the month of December. The eight-day Jewish holiday Hanukkah, the African celebration Kwanzaa and the four-day Hindu celebration of Pancha Ganapati all happen within the month’s 31 days. 

According to the Pew Research Center’s 2014 phone survey of over 35,000 Americans, Christianity is still the dominant religion in the United States; 70.6 percent of citizens identified as practicing some variation of the Christian faith. In New York, 60 percent of adults identified as Christian. The second largest percentage, 27 percent, represented people who said they were not affiliated with any one religion in particular.  

From this information, you could conclude that from the standpoint of a large corporation’s advertising manager, the way to make the most money is to develop advertisements targeted towards Christmas, the most prominent holiday celebrated by the majority of people. On the other hand, another way is to look at what all of the above holidays have in common and realize that an increasing number of people defect from religious beliefs altogether. The fundamental ideals of this time of year, togetherness and giving, are the best advertising bait. Whether you are the most devout member of your church or have sworn to never enter one, the month of December tends to conjure feelings of wanting to do more than simply worry about yourself and your next paycheck. 

People tend to want to get so close with one another during the upcoming months that there is even a term for it when referring to getting close in a more-than-friendly relationship: cuffing season. It is used in sociology to describe the months when people are most likely to build relationships with one another. 

According to Tinder’s in-house sociologist Jess Carbino, Ph.D., “during the fall and winter months, people who would normally rather be single or promiscuous find themselves along with the rest of the world desiring to be ‘cuffed’ or tied down by a serious relationship. The cold weather and prolonged indoor activity causes singles to become lonely and desperate to be cuffed.”

Not everyone falls into this category and spontaneously wants to find someone special to drink eggnog with next to a roaring fire when the first snowfall hits, but most people donate/volunteer once or twice a year and for the most part, those one or two good deeds are done around the holidays when societal pressure seems to increase.

According to studies accumulated and presented by the Philanthropy Roundtable, 71 percent of all charitable giving in the U.S. is done on the individual level. 63 million individuals volunteer annually and 42 percent of college graduates volunteer, which is higher than any other level of education. What this tells us is that we have a big responsibility to volunteer and give back to our communities in general.

We hear this a lot, but really only 20 percent of the U.S. population volunteers annually, and someone who volunteers for one hour at their local soup kitchen each year could qualify. So not only do we need to help raise this percentage, but we are also all at The College at Brockport to graduate with a degree, and that places us in the category most likely to donate time and money. We also know that corporations and foundations hardly give anything compared to individual people, so if we don’t help out, who will?

No matter our religious affiliations or lack thereof, or the other parts of our identities we currently have, the opportunity to pursue higher education means we have privilege that we can use to help those who are not as lucky. Many non-for-profit organizations have a hard time keeping volunteers year-round, but if you’re debating giving up a couple of your hours over winter break versus not giving up any hours at any point, do it during the holiday season. 

One of the most popular excuses for not giving back is that we are all too busy. For most traditional college-aged students, we have the ability to move around our work schedules if we really have the motivation to do so. We are not yet locked in a nine-to-five job that we hope to be at for the rest of our lives, so use five Netflix hours over the winter break to help someone who truly needs it and will appreciate it.  

Another excuse people throw around to not donate is that they do not have money to spare during the holiday season. We, at The Stylus, completely understand that, but if you think about it, not only has Christmas come to overshadow every other religious holiday, but Christmas itself has been overshadowed by commercialization and materialism. 

According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), last year, consumers spent on average $588.90 on gifts alone. This does not factor in all of the decorations, cards, postage costs and food expenses, which totaled $655.80, four times the amount spent in 2015. This year, it is estimated that we will spend about $678.80 to $682 on holiday sales. In a recent survey, 46 percent of young adults (ages 18-24) claim they will be spending more. 

Once again, we have the ability to change a lot. We are completely familiar with pinching pennies, as most college students are, but if you do not want to volunteer your time, then take $10 you would normally spend on food and donate it to a local organization. It helps if you research a little about different charitable organization’s missions as well. If you choose one you connect with, it will be easier to part with your hard-earned money. 

Not only is it important to give back, but it’s important to do it for the right reasons. Do not do it once just to have content to make a self-benefiting social media post. Do it because you actually want to help those in your community and want to prove to other people that if you can make the time or find the money, so can they. The traditional holiday spirit of “giving back” doesn’t necessarily have to mean giving up quantities of time or money, and it doesn’t have to start when you leave campus for winter recess. 

We only have a couple more weeks of school left and even less of classes. Take the time to acknowledge all the different types of people on this campus, the different identities and the different cultures that are represented. Christianity may still be the most practiced religion according to studies done during a time when many other religions like Islam and Judaism are being persecuted, but on this campus, we can work to rise above the national divide, even if it is simply stopping by a table in the Seymour College Union occupied by a club or organization whose mission/purpose you might not know much about. 

Show the will to learn something that doesn’t necessarily impact or connect to you directly and do so because you want to support those who are impacted and connected directly. 

If we all keep this in mind, perhaps this year the phrase “Happy Holidays” will finally ring true.

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