We are surrounded with the commercialization that accompanies Christmas, from the festive red cups from Starbucks branded with “Let’s Merry,” to dancing Santa Clauses and bags of red, green and white M&Ms at CVS.
With all the garlands and carols playing, Thanksgiving – a time for being thankful and appreciating what we have – can be lost in the celebration of the impending Christmas season.
So let’s put aside the Christmas merriment for a little while. What the University needs is a school-wide day of service for Thanksgiving, an in-depth conference devoted to discussing homelessness and the problems facing the impoverished.
The Center for Civic Engagement and Service already hosts a multitude of events throughout National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness week. Student-organized events include service opportunities across the city, a poetry slam, a homelessness panel, hunger banquet, a canned food drive and a hunger walk.
But like the two other days of service the University holds – Sept. 11 and Martin Luther King, Jr. Day – Thanksgiving is an excellent opportunity for a University-wide day dedicated to volunteering.
Having a designated day of service will also encourage students who are not involved in student organizations or who do not typically have time to participate in service activities.
There’s no denying that turnout for the University-wide days of service is greater than student organization-run events. Publicity on campus for the events is huge, house staff members encourage their residents to take part and some professors even allow classes on those days to be optional.
The University could host former or current homeless individuals willing to share their stories. While there is an opportunity to hear directly from former or current homeless individuals throughout National Hunger and Homelessness week, having this event open to all of GW would only enhance its power and significance.
Given that we are a student body that interacts directly with the homeless on a daily basis, this would provide the entire community with the chance to listen to the unheard voices of the people we see every day.
We saw a promising glimmer of what a Thanksgiving Day of Service could be with the National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness week. But what this laudable student-organized week showed us is that, with University backing, an even more impressive day dedicated to serving others is possible.
After Thanksgiving, the national culture turns to one of consumerism and excessive spending. So while we are still focused on gratitude and appreciation, we should take the next step and have a University-wide day of service.
We can give more than thanks this holiday.
Ryan Carey-Mahoney, a sophomore majoring in journalism, is a Hatchet columnist.
This article appeared in the November 21, 2011 issue of the Hatchet.