Thanksgiving is finally here! For many of us, Thanksgiving is a holiday that evokes happy memories, mental images of a turkey-centric, drool-inducing meal, thoughts of family and friends, maybe even some silly traditions. (Does anybody else break the wishbone?) It may also be a time that you and your loved ones celebrate each year by joining in acts of service. For a lot of Americans, Thanksgiving becomes the rally holiday to give — give thanks, give meals, give money and give time.
Community service is an incredible way to give back to the world around you while you’re taking time to reflect on how grateful you are for what you have this holiday season. Honestly, we have it pretty good here. Chances are, if you go to Drexel, you’ve found yourself in a position advantaged enough to earn an incredible education, gain work experience in your early twenties, and live in a city filled with endless amounts of opportunity and cultural experience. Our connections with the Dornsife Center for Neighborhood Partnerships and the Lindy Center for Civic Engagement offer a large number of opportunities for students to connect with the community we are nestled into here in West Philly. Through the Civic 101 course, we’re handed tons of resources we can use to stay involved and connected throughout the city and suburbs. Simply by virtue of living in Philadelphia, we have daily opportunities to engage with and give back to our city and community. And giving back feels good! Studies have even found that taking time to recognize everything we have to be grateful for can assist with managing symptoms of depression and seasonal affective disorder.
However, if you’re feeling compelled to help out in your community on Turkey Day or through the holiday season, you may want to reconsider just how you approach service.
Many charities and organizations that address hunger and neediness find themselves completely inundated with helping hands each Thanksgiving. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but most charities find that they have too many volunteers one day each year, and not nearly enough during the rest of the year. It’s important to recognize that hunger is not a once-a-year issue in this country, and that charities don’t stop after the holiday season has ended. In fact, the time of most need for many food banks and community kitchens is midsummer, when school is out and kids lose access to school-sponsored nutrition programs. Additionally, those canned food drives that crop up each holiday season aren’t nearly as helpful as they appear. Most canned foods have little nutritional value, and many who give fail to check the expiration dates on those cans of soup they cleared out of the bottom of the pantry. Additionally, food banks can do scores more good with monetary donations than they can with your dusty cans of spinach.
It’s a really good thing to want to get involved in your community, but it’s important to address how, when, and why you help. Maybe do some research into ways you can help throughout the year. Ask charities what they need, instead of assuming you know and giving in a potentially less effective way. When you get involved in something that you’re passionate about, service feels more like a gift to yourself than others. Maybe, this Thanksgiving, instead of making a commitment for one day and feeling as if you’ve done enough, you can make a promise to yourself that you’ll do research to find out how you can effectively give back to your community year-round.
In any case, we at The Triangle certainly wish you a warm and happy Thanksgiving holiday, and want you to know that we consider ourselves very fortunate to serve such a diverse, hard-working and compassionate community. To everyone who reads, shares and supports The Triangle, and to all whose amazing accomplishments have given us something to put in the headlines each week — we’re very thankful for you.