By Katarina Kucinic

A smile spreads across a child’s face as they open a neatly-wrapped box that reveals a warm and inviting coat, followed by a pair of emoji-clad mittens and matching pom-pom hat. They dance around their home in the coat, squealing about how excited they are to show off their new stylish hat and mittens at school. In the kitchen, an apple pie is baking while fresh ingredients are being prepared to create the most memorable holiday meal. The living room is being filled with stories and laughs as family and friends reminisce on years past. Any remnant of the chaos or stress of life is silenced by the overwhelming love and joy created by such a positive environment.

Some may have the immediate means to create such a positive environment, however many may not. As the weather becomes cooler, our hearts grow warmer in the season of giving. While the holiday season is quickly approaching and the act of giving goes without question, sometimes we hesitate to take the time to reflect on why we give. Sometimes receiving a gift offers us reassurance that we are loved, cared about and are remembered but what does it mean when we give? Giving is intentional—an act to benefit another but why does it feel good to give back? Perhaps, a simple smile or thank you is sufficient, or perhaps, there is something greater. Perhaps, it feels good to give back because we are offered something in return. The power of giving creates a positive memory and a connection with someone. Through this connection a meaningful smile is exchanged, a relationship is strengthened, and perhaps, a need is fulfilled.

For me, giving back means more than donating a material item. While monetary donations make a meaningful impact, giving our time, as AmeriCorps members, is the impact. I feel incredibly fortunate to be able to serve because my time at The Windsor STEM Academy in a 5th grade classroom has offered me the ability to create a connection with intelligent, humorous, selfless and loving students. Despite having to overcome obstacles outside of their control, these children come to school every day and demonstrate their ability to learn and earn an education. As I reflect, I choose to give back because while my job is to serve as a positive mentor, I simultaneously learn something new from my students every single day.

So as the holiday season approaches, I challenge you to reflect on why giving back is so important. As a City Year member, our time spent serving can offer a child the opportunity to learn in a more positive environment. However, consider how a donation of something as essential as a coat, a hat, a warm meal, or even a few dollars can impact someone that may need it. What is the impact of a warm coat and hat in freezing temperatures? A hot turkey dinner on Thanksgiving? Or a few dollars to buy some pencils so a child can work on an award-winning essay? The opportunity to give creates a lasting impact on all involved, regardless of how insignificant the donation may seem.

I wish all the happiest of holidays and hope you look forward to the season of giving!


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