Editorial: Volunteer to give thanks

Originally published in the Nov. 5, 2013 print edition of the Sac City Express

Kate Paloy, give thanks, Sac City Express

Editorial illustration by Kate Paloy.

The sights and sounds of the holidays are upon us, as Sacramento residents and Americans across the nation begin to decorate their houses for fall holidays—some even for Christmas already—and purchase hoards of goods from multiple retail locations.

The City College Panther statue was covered in pumpkins recently for a Queer/Straight Alliance club fund-raiser selling those plump little orange squash. While this was for a noble cause, raising money for a college club, it seems this is what the holidays have become more and more in recent years.

Specifically, Thanksgiving and Christmas have become so commercial that most people celebrate these holidays without even realizing what they’re all about.

Other winter holidays such as Kwanzaa, Hanukkah and New Year’s aren’t so bad, but in particular the celebration of Thanksgiving and Christmas have become more about how much we can eat or how many presents we can solicit out of our friends and family, than they are about giving thanks, or giving back, or even spending time with those friends and family members.

Black Friday—the biggest shopping day of the year—starts earlier and earlier each year. It has become a new tradition to go sit in line on Thanksgiving or to even go to stores that now open around 8 p.m. on the same day that everybody stuffs themselves with turkey and yams.

All of this makes one wonder why people don’t do more for those in need. The holidays have traditionally been a time of giving thanks and giving back to those who are less fortunate.

Sure, there are food drives, toy donations, soup kitchens and other such events and activities that help promote this idea, many of which are done on the City College campus, but maybe we as Americans should be upping the ante when it comes to helping others.

Statistically speaking, according to retailindustry.about.com, Americans spent $59.1 billion on Black Friday weekend alone in 2012. In comparison, there were 636,017 homeless Americans in 2011, according to endhomelessness.org.

Now, of course, the money spent on Black Friday wouldn’t be able to feed and shelter all those people, but the numbers speak volumes about the priorities of Americans.

Perhaps it’s just the nature of living in a capitalist country, but it’s sad to see so many people go without, many of them through no fault of their own, when people are willing to spend so much money on toys, electronics, clothes and other such frivolous expenditures.

There are so many other important aspects of winter celebrations to focus on, but it seems, at least in America, the main focus these days is to spend money. That isn’t to say there aren’t many people who do give back, and that’s great, but there is a huge opportunity to help even more, and not only at the holidays, but all the time. In fact, why do we view the holidays as the only time of the year when helping others is important?

One way City College students or those in the greater Sacramento area can help out is by going to sacramentofoodbank.org and clicking on the volunteer link at the top of the home page.

From there, interested individuals can learn more about volunteering and how they can help the community. For Thanksgiving this year, the food bank is running a turkey distribution line at its facility located at 3333 Third Avenue in Sacramento, which will be held on Nov. 25.

The organization also offers many opportunities for helping out year round, but for those who don’t have the time, money or ability to help out all the time, consider lending a hand to a fellow member of the community during the holiday season. Try walking in someone else’s shoes and ask yourself how it would feel to be ignored if you were in need.

There are so many ways, whether through City College or elsewhere, to get involved with helping those who are less fortunate than you. The important thing to remember is that while it’s perfectly fine to indulge during the holidays and while everybody is entitled to celebrate life, love and family any way they choose, there are a lot of people out there who have very little or nothing at all.

So, instead of sitting in front of the TV Nov. 28 watching football or instead of getting an early spot in line for that hot new toy your niece or nephew wants, think about collecting clothing for the homeless, volunteering at a local charity or collecting canned goods for the hungry.

After all, giving back is what the holidays should really be about.

In addition to the Sacramento Food Bank, there are many other places to help out during the holidays. Click here or here to find plenty of local volunteer opportunities.

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About Daniel Wilson

I am a student at California State University Sacramento (Sac State) majoring in journalism, pursuing a Bachelor's degree with a minor in communications. Please visit both www.saccitygamer.com and www.dwilsononline.com for more information.
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