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The Gift of Giving

I have a lot of crap. Junk. Stuff. Whatever you want to call it, I’ve realized recently that I own a lot of things and I probably don’t even need half of it.  I’m almost embarrassed that a regular struggle in my life is having to decide which of the forty shirts in my closet to wear out on Friday night. Can we say #firstworldproblems?
But in all seriousness. We’ve all heard, “It’s better to give than to receive,” probably dozens of times in our young adult lives, but is it true? When I was younger, I probably just shook my head and smiled in agreement while secretly thinking, “Good for you, but I’ll take my presents thank you very much.” But now that I’m older something’s got me thinking there might be more to it than I thought.

There’s a movie called Pay it Forward. It begins when a young boy’s social studies teacher gives the class an assignment: think of something to change the world and put it into action. The little boy, Trevor, comes up with the idea of not returning a favor back — but forward — by doing good deeds for three new people, who each do the same, creating an entire web of people who have been touched by a single act of kindness. Think this sounds like something that only happens in the movies? Maybe. Maybe not.
I’ve heard some cool stories recently. My best friend, who goes to UNCW, started a conversation with someone on the camera crew for One Tree Hill while it was filming near campus a few weeks ago. He was working long hours and didn’t have time to eat. So she went out and bought him a snack.

 A few weeks ago, my dad began noticing the same woman standing on the side of the road every night on his drive home from work. The woman held up a sign that read, “Lost job. Need help.” One night he stopped at Wal-mart and got her a $40 gift card. He said the woman didn’t know what to say when he gave it to her, except that she was so grateful she would be able to go buy groceries and a birthday present for her daughter.
All this got me thinking. My younger brother and I usually spend around $20 on each other every Christmas, but this year we decided to do something different. Instead of buying each other more “stuff,” we’re going to take the $40 we would have spent and donate it to a food pantry. We even decided it would be fun to visit the food pantry when I come back home in December and serve together in the soup kitchen.
Giving of yourself is really the best kind of gift there is. With the holidays just around the corner, here are some easy and inexpensive ways for collegiates to enjoy the gift of giving.
1.     Give encouragement.Use old stationary, or pick up some Christmas cards to write encouraging notes to people in your life. Drop them off at your friend’s campus mailboxes or mail them to relatives at home.
2.     Send a care package.We of all people know how much fun it is to get a care package in the mail. Fill a small box with Christmas goodies, goofy photos and some hot chocolate mix. This is a cute way to let a friend from home know that you’re thinking of them while you’re both away at college.
3.     Treat someone in the drive-through.I’ve always wanted to do this: tell the person at the drive-through window that you’re paying for the car behind you in line. (Just make sure you ask what the order total is first so you can make sure you have enough!) Places to try: Starbucks, Wendy’s, Cook Out.
4.     Surprise your roommate.Do something kind for the people you live with. Make their beds one morning for no reason, or clean the entire apartment. Bring home goodies and leave them on the counter with a sweet note.
5.     Give a gift that helps someone else. Similar to the concept behind TOMS shoes, where for every pair of shoes purchased a pair is donated to child in need in Africa, other organizations have benefit products like Invisible Childrenand Clothe Your Neighbor As Yourself, which offers these artsy v-necks in a range of colors.
6.     Give a date night. Know of a married couple with kids? Offer to babysit —here comes the catch — for free. Take it a step further and give them a gift card to their favorite restaurant. They are sure to appreciate the evening out without worrying about the kids!
7.     Cook for your parents.I don’t even want to know how many meals my parents have prepared for me throughout my life. Turn the tables and cook for them instead! Check out Better Homes and Gardens websitefor easy, delicious dinner ideas or wake up early to try your hand at some pumpkin pancakesor French toast casserole.
8.     Pick up a few extra things at the grocery store. Canned foods are pretty cheap. You could spend just a couple dollars and help feed people in need around Alamance County. Look for collection boxes right inside your local grocery store, or drop off canned foods for Burlington’s Loaves and Fishes at the Kernodle Center in Moseley 230. Email loaves@elon.eduto let them know if you’ve dropped something off.
9.     Make a personalized playlist. Burn a CD for a friend with music you think they’d like, but probably haven’t heard before. Nothing beats new music, especially when you know the tracks were picked specifically for you!
10.  Play Santa Clause. We might not open up toys for Christmas anymore, but that doesn’t mean we can’t buy them for others. Help economically hurting families in Alamance County by dropping off new, unwrapped toys in the “Toys for Tots” collection boxes located on campus in the Moseley Center, Colonnades Dining Hall or the first floor of Alamance between now and December 6.
Before you add more things to your own wish-list this Christmas, brighten someone else’s day this holiday season with a few of these ideas and see for yourself why it truly is better to give than receive.

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