Tis the season- to give back


By Jamie Sughroue, Opinion Editor

It’s the time of year where your mom, Santa and Great Aunt Marge are hounding you to write down the plethora of material goods that you’ve had your eye on for the past few months. They’re encouraging you to compose a handy list that will help them with their purchases for whatever holiday you celebrate (or don’t).

You know what I’m talking about – the pair of Ugg boots you’ve been dying for, a new iPod Touch, an eight-week-old English Bulldog…no? That may just be me.

You know what’s number one on my list this year? That instead of just happily purchasing and doling out physical items this year, you’ll consider giving more. Your time. Your experiences. Your knowledge.

So as not to appear a hypocrite, let me first clarify that I both give and gratefully accept gifts. I’m not a present miser, nor do I expect you all to abjure yourself either. It’s pretty hard to wrap an idea and put it under the tree. Take that shoe rack from your Uncle Buck, the 65-year-old life-long bachelor, say thank you, and give him a big squeeze. He needs it.

Your time is valuable, and as a college student  I understand that it, too, is rarely free. But that doesn’t excuse you from volunteering in some fashion that’s compatible with your schedule, lifestyle and interests. It’s a relatively easy thing to do, donating your skill set and energy.

Ask yourself: What do I like to do? What am I good at? Do I like to work with children or people with disabilities? Am I looking for a short- or long-term commitment? Or would I rather give things that are needed, instead of time? Consider your answers when you’re debating your choices in volunteer opportunities.

There are a wealth of resources online that can direct you on a path that will best work for you. And in a burst of goodwill, I’ve compiled a list of my recommendations for you all to peruse with a brief description of each.

*Volunteermatch.org – a location-based website that allows for users to create an account (if desired) or just scroll through the hundreds of people and organizations that need help. A volunteer can sign up for anything from assisting an elderly person who needs their carpet vacuumed to being a driver for Easter Seals Nebraska, for example.

*Grantspace.org – I have an empathetic, compassionate cousin who as a teen started her own scholarship fund for students who need a helping hand. She asks for donations to be made for special events and days throughout the year to her fund instead of to her. It’s a great opportunity to help someone anonymously, and know that the money you or someone else contribute goes directly toward their education.

*Open Door Mission – The Open Door Mission is in need of volunteers all throughout the year, not just during the holiday months. They need help delivering meals, sorting clothes, and many other activities that are noted on their website.

*The Arc of Omaha – They aren’t accepting new volunteers until January of 2012, but are in need of a number of physical items they outline on their website under the “How you can help” link. A few examples: cookie-decorating materials, handbells, and other educational materials for self-esteem and dating classes.

Consider others as this month passes, especially with the economic climate as it is. We college students may not be as wealthy as Warren Buffet just yet, but we can certainly find other ways to be generous. Think of the time when someone lifted your spirits when you needed it, gave you their shoulder and time when you were down, and pay some of that back. You’ll be surprised with how good it makes you feel – and your mom will be extra proud of you. Maybe you’ll get those Uggs after all.