29 October 2010

Charity Really Begins At Home

There is an e-mail doing semi-contagious rounds around Our cyberspace listing facts We don't know about Our Island. One of them is that--on a per capita basis--Puerto Ricans are the largest supporters of World Vision.

My Brethren are most likely nodding right now, with thoughts along the lines of "Yeah, that sounds like Us." It does. Time and again, when a tragedy strikes somewhere or a need is brought to light, We come forward with generous hearts and hands. True, maybe the money We can provide is in the low hundreds of thousands, a fraction of the millions the people of the U.S. of part of A. can provide, but We share more per person, more consistently, than Our northern fellow citizens.

Why? I have two theories. The first is based on the traditional view of Our history as a forgotten corner of the Spanish Empire, subsisting on scraps and scrounging, where sharing became more than a necessity, evolving into a fuller expression of connecting with one's misery and sense of empathy. Mi dolor es su dolor. 

My second theory is that We share so much because We have a distorted sense of who We are. In other words, We share because We're confused about who We are exactly.

Now there are two ways to look at this theory, two personifications. One is that of the kid from the wrong side of the tracks who finds himself amongst the country club set and tries to fit in by living their lifestyle plus 15%, overspending in a transparent effort to impress. But that really doesn't apply to charity, which is quite often a personal action undertaken in private. Only a boor would go around boasting about how much s/he spends to help others and We don't do that.

The second personification is that of the insecure person seeking approval, one who acts not from a sense of personal perspective but from "social pressures," doing what s/he perceives is right not from conviction, but from a sense of guilt.

So are We "Keeping up with the Jones'" or "guilt-tripped"? Which?

Neither. Or both. But I vote for "neither." Does this mean My two theories are wrong? Maybe. I'm inclined to prefer being wrong about this simply because I'd rather believe that We are charitable and generous because that's how We are rather than think that We are envious/insecure/lunk-headed.

The fact is that Puerto Ricans have a long history of generosity, both between Ourselves and with others We most likely don't even where they live. Through good times and bad, We have stepped up to share Our good fortune with others' misfortunes. And in the long run, does it really matter why We do it?

I believe it does, but not enough to want to look too closely into the matter. Let's just enjoy the fact that when the world needs, We deliver.

The Jenius Has Spoken.


lherrero said...

Another interesting factoid in the same line is that Puerto Rico historically has the highest rate of delinquent home loans in the US, yet we also have the lowest rate of foreclosures.

According to the banking executive who told me this, in a lot of cases, days before foreclosure occurs family members and neighbors pitch in to pay the debt.

I offer this example with two caveats:

1. This was testimony from a banking executive to the PR House of Reps in 2003. I have no idea how this looks like during the current crisis.

2. Foreclosures in PR are more complicated than in the states, and homeowners have more protection before foreclosures occurs. This surely has an effect on the stats.

Prometeo said...

Remember, we are the land of the "¡Ay bendito!". We are noble and kindhearted by nature, that why politicians stomp and trample on us over and over.