Holiday season should be time for students to volunteer service
The winter break is swiftly approaching. Finals are around the corner and cold weather is actually a possibility.

This is an exciting season. Students will celebrate religious holidays including Christmas and Hanukkah, cultural holidays such as Kwaanza and everyone gets a few days away from school.

Often the emphasis during this time is on presents. Stores count down the remaining shopping days until Christmas, large wrapped presents decorate houses and the mall and children scramble into Santa's lap with their mile-long wish lists.

This season presents an opportunity for service that is often overlooked. There are plenty of excuses for helping others this time of year -- a contribution given in the name of someone as a gift, a testament to the values or culture we celebrate during this season or just a positive way to fill a few days without classes.

As the temperature drops, many organizations turn their attention to the homeless who need meals and shelter. While homeless shelters and soup kitchens are usually associated with larger cities, Bryan/College Station has groups like Twin City Mission who could use volunteers willing to help others have an enjoyable holiday season.

Students have countless service opportunities available, and they should take some time this month to selflessly help others.

Service to others is a wonderful way for people to move their focus from the trivial, temporal and material to things that are more significant and lasting.

For those who cannot carve blocks of time during this hectic time of year can still participate in a variety of charitable programs. Toy drives, clothing drives, food drives and collections for charity are going on in communities across the nation.

Organizations exist to use donations of everything from new toys to used winter coats.

Students stereotypically do not have much money, and can use all the spare clothing they can get, but students usually have a much more valuable resource -- time.

Often the need for volunteer hours is greater than the need for money or items. This is a great time of year to serve dinner at a soup kitchen, spend time with shut-ins or go caroling.

Ironically, selfless acts tend to benefit the server as well. An afternoon helping others can remind students how fortunate they are. It puts things in perspective and reminds people that the important things are not nice apartments, decorated trees or large holiday meals. It is good for a person to leave their comfort zone and their preconceived notions of the holidays. Students should see that many families are happy even though they do not enjoy many of the extravagances students take for granted.

Everyone should take time this season to listen to the meaning behind the songs playing on the radio -- themes like kindness, gratitude and love. Each person should spend time investing in the things that matter. They should heed Marley's warning in A Christmas Carol when he said, "Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence were, all, my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business."

Dave Johnston is a senior mathematics major.