The right way to give back during the holidays

Hannah Horn

 Throughout the majority of our education in the U.S., students are taught that Thanksgiving was a harvest festival celebrating a partnership between the Plymouth Colony and the Native Americans. 

This is not an accurate representation of the actual dynamic between the two groups, as the Plymouth colony asserted control over most aspects of Wampanoag life, according to the Gilder Lehrman Institute. 

Despite it’s disturbing and falsified past, Thanksgiving has evolved for many into a day dedicated to service and giving thanks. 

According to USA Today, every year on Thanksgiving in the spirit giving thousands of people seek opportunities to volunteer at soup kitchens, homeless shelters and food banks.

This influx of people who only volunteer once can lead to issues day-of as these volunteers are often undertrained and crowd smaller nonprofits, leaving staff overwhelmed. 

If this level of commitment to serving nonprofits was spread throughout the year the impact could be far greater than just choosing on a whim to volunteer on Thanksgiving.

This is not meant to diminish the benefits of volunteering or donating to nonprofits, but showing up at the last minute can cause issues for the very cause you’re trying to serve.

Instead giving can take form as giving to dry or canned food drive, donating hygiene products and supplying other needs for local non-profits. 

Other options include supporting a child’s needs from giving trees and local toy drives, monetary donations can also go a lot farther to helping a non-profit fulfill their goals. 

If we were to expand these simple acts into an every-day thing besides just during the holidays, then we would be well on our way to becoming better humans and helping organizations that need it the most. 

This year instead of investing our time into Black Friday deals and scouring the internet for the best prices, society needs to take a look at the industries that are supported by these actions. 

We all become a small part of the problem when we endorse the sales that take place during the week of Thanksgiving and carry on through the holiday season. 

“If this level of commitment to serving nonprofits was spread throughout the year the impact could be far greater than just choosing on a whim to volunteer on Thanksgiving. ”

Last year on Cyber Monday alone, Amazon reported its record high for a shopping day in the company’s history as consumers order more than 18 million toys and more than 13 million fashion items. 

But, what isn’t acknowledged is the effects on workers.

Every time you order off Amazon selecting two-day prime shipping, warehouse and distribution workers have to work around the clock to try and meet consumers’ needs.

This year, workers in Shakopee, Minn. planned to strike on Amazon Prime Day based on low wages and unhealthy working conditions. 

But, even if workers strike this might not mean much.

“E-commerce companies don’t care about their turnover rates. They consider all workers to be interchangeable,” said Diane Swonk, senior economist at Grant Thornton.

This pattern of stuffing your face on Thanksgiving and shopping online or in stores the following weekend places a strain on society.

But assuming that volunteering once at a non-profit isn’t always beneficially either. 

Try this year to instead take a more altruistic view of the holidays focusing on the things that matter most to you and giving back to your community in a productive manner.