There’s only one issue that nags at our guest blogger, Tatjana Freund: Why volunteer only around the holidays? People who need assistance may need it all year-round, not just in the two-month period that volunteering seems to be crystallized around. She understands that the holidays can be lonely and bring additional sadness for some, but she’d also like to challenge people who enjoy volunteering at holiday services to try it out in every season.
Let’s face the facts: I’m getting old. I’m 22 now, over the hill, yesterday’s news. Someone recently pointed out a forehead wrinkle that I’ve developed from raising my eyebrows incredulously so often. A saleslady gave me a free sample of under-eye cream. The signs that I’m aging take on many forms: I call 18-year-olds “children” now, I get genuinely excited about applying sunscreen, and now, holidays have stopped being fun and started being stressful.
As a sweet, naïve child of 18 and below, the holidays were about nothing more than food and presents. These days, holiday celebrations means spending atrocious amounts of money on family members and family friends (Please, tell me, what in the world am I supposed to gift my boyfriend’s dad? Sunscreen?) and enduring a feeling of generalized guilt.
The guilt part is especially new, and it has to do less with the fact that I’ve given my grandma lipstick and a book for Christmas for the past five years in a row, and more to do with the fact that during the holidays, I get overwhelmed with a less materialistic message: Volunteer!
Volunteering around the holidays is not new, but as I’ve aged like a fine wine, I now feel the pressure to incorporate community work into my holiday plans. I no longer get to spend Thanksgiving eating myself to an early afternoon nap; I should develop a taste for selflessness instead, and help others who have less.
Now, let me be clear: I think volunteering around the holidays is great. Genuinely, I do. Does it feel a bit like another chore? Yeah, sure, but at this stage in my life, getting myself dressed in the morning feels like a chore. I think that if people are able to volunteer for a few hours to help others around the holidays, they should absolutely do it. It’s a very kind gesture, it’s a rewarding experience, and it can offer support to people who need it.
There’s only one issue that nags at me: Why volunteer only around the holidays? People who need assistance may need it all year-round, not just in the two-month period that volunteering seems to be crystallized around. I understand that the holidays can be lonely and bring additional sadness for some, but I’d like to challenge people who enjoy volunteering at holiday services to try it out in every season.
And if you’re a person who doesn’t tend to volunteer at holidays or any other time, I’d encourage you to try it out in a month when you’re not already stretched so thin. Juggling lying to your extended family members about your dating life with getting preventative Botox and finding the time to volunteer your time is a lot to do. It can make you feel like you just don’t have the time. But just because you don’t have the time to volunteer in November and December doesn’t mean you can’t volunteer in, say, April. You never, ever have plans in April.
After all, isn’t time-management a skill that you hone and perfect as you get older? Now that my under-eyes are baby soft and I’ve successfully patronized children who are somehow only four years younger than me (People born in the 2000s can vote now? Hilarious) I’m going to start de-guilting myself every holiday season by reminding myself that I will clock my volunteer-hours at a time in the year where I can give more, and when volunteers might be harder to find.
Tatjana Freund grew up in San Francisco and has worked with nonprofits both in the Bay Area and New York.
She has also worked in social media and marketing for various companies and publications.
She is currently senior at Barnard College in New York.