On the Christmas Eve of my sophomore year in college, I was trying, and failing miserably, to feel “Christmas fuzzies.” Part of it was that the excitement of my freshman year was gone, and I was battling a bout of end-of-semester fatigue, coupled with frustration over an assignment that I’d been struggling with. I sat waiting outside my professor’s office to discuss the aforementioned problematic paper, while reminiscing wistfully on the carefree good cheer of childhood Christmas festivities.

He called me in, and I tried to wipe off my gloomy frown. Before we started, he opened his desk drawer and pulled out a bag of Dum Dums. “Would you like some candy? You can pick one,” he offered with a smile. I was caught off guard, and laughed nervously. Since when did professors give candy to students?

“Happy Christmas!” he said, and then began sharing his thoughts about how I could revise my paper. It turned out it wouldn’t be as complicated as I’d thought, and I left the meeting feeling much better.

Although my professor hadn’t known about my loneliness and sophomore blues, his spontaneous and kind gesture gave me just that little bit of emotional uplift I needed to face the rest of my Christmas challenges, such as my upcoming final exams. In that little green lemon-flavored lollipop was encapsulated the magic of Christmas—cheerful, spontaneous giving, as well as the enjoyment of candy.

After finishing my lollipop, I went to another class, where I happened to see one of my friends poring over a weighty civil engineering tome. Her eyes were tired, and the corners of her mouth were drooping in a painfully familiar fashion. When I opened my schoolbag to take out my textbook, I saw that I had two chocolate-chip cookies in one of the pockets, which I’d packed for an afternoon treat. I pulled them out and asked my friend, “Hey, would you like a cookie?”

Seeing her eyes brighten up made me smile too, and I realized that even though I wasn’t going to be enjoying the same Christmas festivities and parties of my younger years, I could still spread some Christmas cheer to those around me. A smile and a sweet treat is such a small thing, yet at a time like Christmas when emotional nostalgia and glowing expectations clash all the more painfully with life’s stark reality, a simple act of generosity can do wonders to bring Christmas joy to a dreary day.