Cash-strapped students can give back, too

The season of giving is upon us, and we hardly have enough pocket change for one measly packet of ramen. Something tells me donating $3,000 to Doctors Without Borders is not in the cards for broke college students. We admire these noble institutions and want to make contributions, but we barely have enough to scrape by ourselves. So how can we give back for the holidays?

Maybe we don’t need a deeper wallet – just a little creativity.

In my mere 20 years, I’ve witnessed a myriad of seemingly small, kind acts that have made a larger impression than the giver could have fathomed. From one friend walking across campus in the dark to get my backpack that I left in Dooly, to another simply asking how I was feeling after having spent the year with a chronic illness, I know the power of going the extra mile.

Have you ever been in the Starbucks drive-through line and the barista told you that the previous customer paid for your drink? If you have, you were on the receiving end of the “pay it forward” campaign at Starbucks, an initiative that began in Zhuhai, China, when a barista gave a frequent customer, Mr. Tong, a size of coffee larger than he ordered. Overwhelmed by gratitude, he paid for the next 500 drinks purchased at that Starbucks.

You can implement the paying it forward mentality, too. When you have the means to give a little extra, do so. Next time you’re in the Starbucks line, if you have just $5 to spare, offer to pay for the person behind you. Think of the incredible chain reaction you are catalyzing. Perhaps someone behind you in line has just had a loved one pass away, and maybe someone else just broke off a long-term relationship. You never know. The notion you’ve done something nice and made some sort of impact might even make your day, too.

Of course, you don’t need money to give back this season. Hold the elevator open for someone carrying a large object, or help them carry it to their destination. If someone spills something in the dining hall, help them clean it up. If there is a person or people you have always admired for whatever reason – their attitude, talent, intellect – send them an email, text, phone call or tell them in person what you admire. If you’re with a group of friends and they begin to gossip about someone, assert yourself and avert the topic of discussion. Some acts of kindness call for a little bit of bravery.

We should also take this season of giving to recognize what’s been given to us: the luxury of attending this university, and the luxury that we are able to give back at all. So many worthy young adults don’t have the means to attend a school as beautiful as ours, or any school at all.

There are no bounds to the ways we can give back to our community. Even though these gestures are less costly than a hefty donation, we can help incite a spirit of generosity this holiday season.

Dana Munro is a sophomore majoring in musical theater.

Featured photo courtesy pixabay users maxlkt.