’Tis the season of giving at the U

Even those on a budget should make time to help out the Twin Cities during the holiday season.

Connor Nikolic

I recently watched a YouTube video about a group of friends who walked up to strangers at a gas station and asked if they could pay for the strangers’ gas. It got me thinking: What if I did that, and how would the stranger respond? Would they even take the money?

Giving at the gas station

This past weekend, I hopped on my bike and rode to a local gas station. I decided to help one person have a better day.

I nervously walked into the station. I had never done anything quite like this. I told the cashier my plan and made sure they were on board.

About five minutes later, a middle-aged woman pulled up to pump No. 5. Her three kids sat in the back seat of her station wagon. Ignoring any personal jitters, I calmly walked up to her, greeted the woman and offered to pay for her tank of gas. She immediately refused. She politely said she did not wish to receive charity and others needed my help more.

After about half a minute of talking with her, I convinced her to let me pay. We continued to talk while the gas pumped. She told me about how hard she works to make sure her children always have what they need. She was a single mother working three jobs with support from her parents and family.

I paid for the gas and rode home. In all likelihood, I will never see that woman or her children again. I hope the deed was enough to make a small difference in their lives.

I am not a great or wealthy person. Though we hear stories about paying for strangers’ groceries, bills or gas, how many of us have tried these ourselves?

What can the University community do?

As members of the University of Minnesota community we have access to two large, busy cities. Despite the hustle and bustle of campus life, if we stop for a moment and explore our communities, we may find someone or something that could use our help. The onus is on us to give back to our neighborhoods. Even if you don’t have much time or money to give, there are simple ways University community members can give back this season.

Volunteering with shelters

Every year, local food shelves and homeless shelters need extra assistance during the winter holiday season. If you have the time, don’t hesitate to sign up and make a difference.

Donating clothes

We all have that one old sweater in the back of our closet and a pair of jeans that just doesn’t fit anymore. Why not do some good with these?

Salvation Army and Goodwill have several locations around the metro area. These organizations will take your new or lightly used attire and sell them at a low cost to those in need.

Shoveling neighbors’ snow

If you cannot donate or travel, then look to neighbors for a way to give back this season. There may be people in the community unable to shovel their sidewalks or driveway, so giving them a helping hand could go a long way.

University community members can find plenty of ways to spread some cheer this season. While we may appreciate seeing videos or reading articles on acts of kindness, we should realize there are ways to help around us. Going out of your way may better someone’s day — and make you feel good in return.