When we hear “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” we don’t always share the sentiment. Outside the University, people experience the stress—however joyful—of planning for the holidays and shopping for gifts. We feel this stress on campus as well, of course, but it is augmented by academic struggles; final papers and exams provide yet another burden for both students and faculty.
I was especially stressed when I found messages in my email account from various organizations about Giving Tuesday. The stress did not come from the tone or content of the messages themselves, or from the fact that many undergraduates cannot afford to contribute as much as the organizations deserve. I felt distraught at the fact that there had to be a Giving Tuesday in the first place.
Isn’t the holiday season a time for giving and sharing? Is that not the place from which a substantial portion of its joys emanates? And above all, in the 21st century, shouldn’t we be engaged in more giving than ever before? I support the spirit of Giving Tuesday, but there should not be a giving day or season. Giving ought to be a regular part of our lives.
I recently attended a senior class reception in which President Roth and Melody Oliphant ’13, among other alumni, gave brief speeches about the importance of giving to the University on Giving Tuesday. Almost inevitably, the speeches were challenged. Joshua Krugman ’14 stormed the stage, briskly walking to the podium and snatching the microphone. He attempted to give an opposition speech, but one of the speakers leaned against him and the musicians tried to play him off. Several members of the audience shouted, “Let him speak!”
Although I disagree with the timing of his tactics and the content of his message, I consider his a well-formulated and well-articulated argument that deserves to be heard. That said, I wish to challenge the speeches on a different level, albeit one that incorporates their message.
I sympathize with the alumni who spoke at that reception because the circumstances forced them to promote contributions to the University on Giving Tuesday only, rather than to extend the spirit to every other day of the year. I do not doubt their pride in our school. But if Wesleyan instills and hones one skill, it is critical thought on broader lenses. That spirit should compel those who can to give to the University with vigor, but it should also compel us to give outside of the University with the same vigor.
At the very least, we should contribute to efforts that will improve the quality of life for those who need it in the surrounding Middletown area. We should support efforts that provide shelter to the homeless and offer food to the starving. We should continue to provide necessary resources to those who are still reeling from the superstorms and blizzards of the last several years. Perhaps some of us could engage in charitable efforts, like volunteering at the soup kitchen, as a study break.
At a school whose students come from 52 countries besides the United States, we at the University are also encouraged to engage in charitable efforts worldwide. Our bonds with friends and family are certainly the most important, but in this increasingly globalized world, we must think in much broader spheres. For instance, we are very much aware of the affects of the typhoon in the Philippines. Haiyan happened to occur just before a season where the spirit of giving and charity reaches its zenith. We should seize this opportunity.
We face similar issues here in Middletown. Rather than becoming a community of communities, we at the University have become a bubble that is home to other, smaller, bubbles. Focusing on the bubbles within the University, and the bubble of the University itself, we often do not prioritize our neighbors in Middletown and beyond.
I hope that we can use the giving season to channel our contrarian energy toward helping those around us, in this community and beyond. The pending deluge of final assessments and performances unites us in stress, but we must remember to come together and embrace the holiday season while we can. And let us sustain the spirit of giving beyond the end of the term, for the betterment of us all.
Shatz is a member of the class of 2014.