September 19, 2019 | 49° F

THURAVIL: People should spread holiday spirit by being kind to others

Opinions Column: Sip on Your Chai


With the holidays around the corner, as college students it is easy to be swept away by the promise of almost three weeks of doing close to nothing, eating more food than one can imagine and getting to see family and friends that you may not have seen in a long time. But it is also easy to forget those who may not be able to do or have any of these privileges. It is also easy to forget those who are struggling not only to find something they are thankful for, but struggling to get by as well. We could write extensively about the history of the commercialization and the capitalistic roots of the holidays as we know them today. But instead what we should do is use that history to try and change what we know as the conventional holiday season to make it a little more communal and inclusive, and bring it somewhat closer to the spirit of Christmas that we have been taught in school. There are some ways you can improve the lives around you, not just for these holidays but all year round, so you can show gratitude in the most impactful way possible.

Make room for one (or a few) more at the table. If you are hosting a Christmas dinner, squeeze an extra plate onto your table and invite someone who you know will not be able to do that themselves. It gives them something to celebrate this holiday along with you, and provides them with a community on a day that is meant to foster togetherness. Even within the frugality of college holiday events and arrangements, it is possible to fit at least one more person into your plans. This is an incredible way to get to know someone, because nothing is better during the holidays than the feeling of belonging to a group, and when better to feel that than around the dinner table?

Donate to a food pantry. For a holiday so centered around food and its abundance, those who do not have secure access to it fall to the side. While going shopping for ingredients, keep those who face food insecurity in mind and pick up a few nonperishables to donate to your local food pantry. So many of our fellow humans suffer from food insecurity — more than 1.1 million people in New Jersey alone are unsure of whether they are going to be able to obtain their next meal or not, and this number does not exclude college students. There is always going to be someone who will be thankful to receive your donation and need it to survive.

Invite someone over for the break. Homelessness is yet another problem faced by much of the country, and some students at Rutgers are not immune to it. For these students, their only home is their place of residence on campus paid for by their loans. Extra housing over break may not be an option for them. For others, money to spend on transportation to go home is out of the question. If this is the case, why not invite them home for the winter break, especially if you know them well and you live nearby? It is an exceptional opportunity to get close to a friend you have known for a while and give them a temporary family while they are separated from their own by circumstances that may be out of their control. Plus, it is always fun to have another person over to eat with and complain to.

Give someone a ride. If you are going back to your home for break outside of New Jersey and are driving, offering someone a seat in your car is one of the simplest, most effortless ways to give back. Transportation is expensive, and between flights and train tickets, the costs can add up. If, for a short break, any other form of transportation back home is not viable for someone and his or her destination is near or on the way to yours, gas and snack money can be split, and when it comes down to it, having a car full of new friends to drive home embodies the spirit of the holidays — helping others while helping yourself.

There are several other ways that you can help out this season, some more creative than others. Your impact these holidays does not have to be extravagant — like donating a lump sum of money to a charity. These little things add up. As members of a society, it is our duty to look out for one another and help each other, and along the way, we will be giving others the gift of having something or someone to be grateful for this year.

Neeharika Thuravil is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore majoring in computer science and astrophysics. Her column, "Sip on Your Chai," runs on alternate Wednesdays.


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Neeharika Thuravil

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