It’s important to give back during the holidays

Students should make time to donate and volunteer this season


Cartoon by Brenna Batchelder

The holidays are one of the busiest times of year, but it’s important to find space in your schedule to give back.

Morgan Weir, Editor-in-Chief

The holidays are one of the busiest times of the year with gift shopping, finals, extracurricular and family events filling up our schedules. Amidst all this, it can be hard for students and staff to find time for others. However, this is one of the most critical times to give back. We need to make time to connect with our community and help out however we can.

The holidays are a difficult time for many: military families separated, kids without gifts, homeless without shelter in bitter cold temperatures and sick people celebrating the holidays in the hospital. There is always someone in need, especially with a pandemic that is affecting many people’s health and incomes. This year has been hard on everyone, and those of us lucky enough to be healthy and financially stable should take time to appreciate that.

This is a perfect time to start volunteering or to make a habit of giving back. Aside from being a chance to express gratitude for our privileges and fortune, philanthropy boosts self confidence, introduces new skills and offers a chance to connect with others. It helps us to achieve a sense of purpose and fulfillment of a social role. After a period of social distancing and isolation, it gives us a chance to meet members of our community who share similar values and to expand our worldview beyond the bubble we live in. Volunteering has also been shown to reduce stress levels and positively influence mental health, which is especially important during such a hectic time of year, along with improving physical health.

There are dozens of opportunities to give back during this season. At Millard West, government classes, Key Club and Justice and Diversity League are going to food banks. Wildcat Service Club sang at retirement homes, Student Council called bingo at the Walnut Grove Retirement Home, Senior Class Board made tie blankets for Project Linus and Tri-M rang bells for the Salvation Army. National Honors Society gave gifts to the Sandoz holiday project and Quality Times donated gifts to local children through Salvation Army’s Project Angel Tree. Even if you can’t fit these events into your schedule, you can give blood, deliver groceries, drop money in the Toys for Tots box at the store, donate clothes or purchase items from a nonprofit’s Amazon wishlist. Use your skills and interests to benefit others; maybe you’re passionate about a specific issue, know another language, have medical knowledge, know how to code or are good with kids. During this year, there are plenty of places in Omaha that are giving back and need donations of money, supplies or time. 

Philanthropy has the ability to make us feel less alone. It can help us realize how connected we all are and how important it is to support our community. Taking a break from your own problems and spending part of your day to connect with someone in the community, even if it’s indirectly, benefits everyone. When you have a strong sense of community and a deep understanding of your role as a member of that community, everyone is uplifted. In our society, especially for those of us who are especially socioeconomically privileged, giving is not always the first instinct. We might volunteer when it’s convenient for us or donate money if we have some extra cash, but it’s not the basis of how we live our lives. This is the perfect time of year to change that. 

This concept of community is especially important for Millard West right now. We are having issues with bathroom and hallway etiquette, attendance and truancy. As a result, custodians are working long hours, teachers are giving up open blocks to patrol the hallways and bathrooms, and staff members are suffering burnout from covering classes due to the sub shortage. When students choose to contribute to those problems, it sends a message about what our school is about and what we want to add to the community. Wouldn’t we rather be known as the school that donates a lot and shows up to volunteer rather than as the school that has problems with stealing and tardiness? Don’t be the reason other people’s lives are harder. Be the reason a child has a gift to open on Christmas or a coat to wear over the winter. Be the reason a family has a healthy meal to share together. Be the reason we can take pride in our school. 

The holidays are the perfect time to start sending this message and creating this habit for the new year. It’s easy to volunteer only when it’s convenient for us, but we need to show up and say we are in this consistently. As you reflect on the past year, think about what you want to add to your community and how you want to show up for others. With 2400 students at West, we have the power to make real change and impact in Omaha. Over Winter Break, find the time to volunteer, donate and give back.