With the holiday season at Georgetown comes a number of annual traditions — the Christmas tree lighting in Dahlgren Quad, selfies in front of the “Hoyas” sign on the front gates, Christmas caroling by various a cappella clubs — and a number of formal holiday events put on by student clubs and organizations.
These events, which range from the Students of Georgetown, Inc.’s annual holiday gala to the semi-formals and formals hosted by various clubs and societies, often try to balance relieving stress in the time before finals, celebrating the holiday season and engaging in philanthropy for a good cause at Christmastime. But while there is nothing intrinsically wrong with these philanthropic efforts, they should not be mistaken for the only kind of service that Georgetown students can or should engage in with the holiday spirit in mind.
The Corp, for instance, usually picks one charity or cause to donate the proceeds from gala ticket sales; last year it picked the Georgetown Scholarship Program and this year it is donating to St. Aloysius Gonzaga Secondary School, an AIDS orphanage in Kenya. Similar galas and formals also have charitable causes and often raise a significant amount of money, for which they should be lauded.
However, student groups’ engagement in charitable work tends to end with the moral justification that they sold an expensive formal ticket with the rationale that they are contributing to those in need. Rather, it is just as important to engage those we seek to serve and understand better the challenges that they face.
As the freezing cold temperatures of winter approach, the situation for the homeless in Washington, D.C., inexorably worsens, and the volunteer work of students in soup kitchens and homeless shelters around the District becomes all the more important.
The annual Hunger and Homelessness week, a partnership between the Center for Social Justice and the Georgetown Ministry Center, serves as a great example of an awareness-raising event. The CSJ also organizes a Hypothermia Outreach Team, in which Georgetown community members who volunteer are trained in conducting street outreach and distributing emergency supplies during times of extreme weather.
Many groups — among them, other CSJ groups, campus ministry groups and the Secular Student Alliance — work with local organizations to sponsor and deliver food to homeless individuals experiencing poverty during the Thanksgiving season.
There is no reason that all clubs should not similarly extend such service events. In the future, without eliminating their formal Christmastime events, student clubs should consider adding or participating in service opportunities, like those of the CSJ, campus ministry groups and the Secular Student Alliance, which work with disadvantaged groups in the surrounding area. In doing so they would fulfill the true message of a kind and compassionate holiday season.
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