Kindness emerged as a theme from our trip to Puerto Rico. We saw kindness everywhere, like an undercurrent that helps define a culture, something I love to notice when traveling.
Given PR is a US territory , I made an assumption that they might resent the lack of political representation and financial benefits to being a state. I was wrong. It’s a complicated trade off for them, according to those I spoke with. It gives them more freedom to protect their culture. Their gentle ways of handling things is certainly something they want to protect.
Here are a few observations that illustrate the kindness of their culture.
POLICE AS PROTECTORS
Having trained police for years around suicide intervention and Crisis Intervention Training for responding to people with mental illness, I’m familiar with their struggle between “Parens Patriae vs. the Warrior”. Given a choice, police are either protectors or warriors in any given situation. Given our cultural value on “might is right”, my training focused on protection, with information on how to be helpful, which was greatly appreciated and welcomed.
PR police are very focused on protection. I heard stories and witnessed how they handle people who are intoxicated. Watching an interaction with someone stumbling and babbling on a busy street was fascinating. There was no arrest, no handcuffs, no aggression or loud voices – all gentle kindness. They helped him. There was also a huge “May is Mental Health Month” banner. I was impressed.
RELIEF FOR ANIMALS
There is a “Save the Gatos” sanctuary in San Juan at the back of large mansion. It included a shelter with cat doors, covered in a cat mural and a place to make donations. It appeared to a be a privately funded operation. Cats were wandering around freely everywhere, just doing their cat thing.
PR’s focus on saving animals seems prevalent. Yes, there is a history of cock fighting, as we have too. But there are 23 animal protection societies in Puerto Rico. A number that far outweighs other Caribbean islands. Taking care of those more vulnerable than you is a mark of a civilized and kind culture.
We saw many families in action, as you expect to see on vacation. But watching them at the pool and the beach, I noticed something a little different. Parents were very involved. They were teaching swimming, playing games, laughing and interacting. Children were hung around their neck, giving kisses, teasing each other. It was personal. No cell phones or video distractions.
Jade, who gave me a pedicure, told me she decided to take her 2 daughters out of school for the year during Covid lockdown and home school them. She said she wanted them to be able to be kids and to enjoy being home together. So, they played in the rainforest, where she grew up and had fun. The focus was different – It was on the joy and closeness of their interactions.
When we travel, we are used to people being helpful at hotels. It’s a way to get a tip. But this seemed more genuine and naturally ingrained. There was a hustle to the helpfulness. It was often unsolicited. Like the people on our bus trip to the rainforest, helping us navigate over the rocks. There was appreciation for our kindness in return.
We wondered why the hotel rates suddenly doubled in prices. I learned that it was to reduce the number of American tourists coming during the pandemic. I heard stories about how we were taking over the island with rude and entitled behavior. There was hostility and belligerence over their strict Covid rules, drunkenness and unlawful behavior and refusal to comply. It’s embarrassing – and doesn’t make me proud to be an American. We can do better.
Do you like to notice what is different in other cultures? It’s one of the joys of travel for me. In Puerto Rico, it was the kindness of people that stood out. I noticed how police were protectors, not warriors, they are kind to animals, involved with their children and like to be helpful. It was heartwarming.
Is kindness something you’d like to give or receive more of in your life? Let’s talk. My Transformational Coaching and Therapy focuses on how to increase kindness. Go to www.spectrumtransformation.com and use my Free Consultation link. I’d love to hear from you.