Winter break offers service opportunities

Melissa Parker

by Life Editor Melissa Parker

With winter break comes a multitude of emotions. Many may be excited about that gift mom and dad have hinted at. Others are waiting impatiently for that present from their significant other. Some might be looking forward to a delicious Christmas dinner with family.

We should remember, however, this is the season of giving and not receiving.

There are many people right here in our community who will get nothing for Christmas. There will be no lively dinner discussions about how Uncle Joe burned the ham last year. There will be no visions of sugar plums dancing in the heads of small children. Some people in our community may not even have a place to lay their head at night. How can we help? There are plenty of local opportunities for helping others.

The season does not have to be about money. Even broke college students can give the gift of time and put some of their skills to use.

Besides the good it does for those lives touched, helping others boosts one’s own happiness, according to actionforhappiness.org.

Other, less happy, emotions involved with this time of year include the stress in finding the perfect Christmas gifts for family and friends or worrying about how to pay the bills after buying the presents.

Helping a person in need provides a sense of meaning and reduces stress. It can also remind us that things are not as bad as we thought.

There are several ways giving to others can help the giver, according to helpguide.org.

Volunteering, even just a few hours a week, provides both mental and physical health benefits.

Volunteering increases self-confidence. When a person does something for others, there is a sense of accomplishment, which, in turn, leads to a more positive outlook about life and the future.

It provides a sense of purpose. For anyone going through a rough patch in life, finding a healthy outlet that takes their minds off of their troubles can be beneficial.

Volunteering combats depression. One of the key risk factors for depression is social isolation. Volunteering offers the opportunity for social interaction and the chance to make new friends.

It also offers the chance for physical activity. Helping with environmental projects, dog bathing at the shelter or playing ball with the kid next door can be great motivators to get some much-needed exercise.

Take a moment and consider that maybe, just maybe, Christmas is not about the gifts.

I think the Grinch was right in his movie: “‘What if Christmas,’ he thought, ‘doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.’”