Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Neighbor Feels Bad For Ignoring Puerto Ricans' Suffering

DEAR HARRIETTE: I live in New York City, where there are a lot of people from Puerto Rico. One of my neighbors has been complaining for months about how slowly the government has responded to the devastation of Hurricane Maria. I have to admit that I got tired of listening to her complaints after a while. So many other problems in life have come up, plus we were getting general notifications that aid was coming to the island.

Now it seems that the support has not been available as needed. And way more people died than was first thought. I feel horrible for my neighbor and her relatives who are stuck in Puerto Rico and who have few resources. I feel like I should apologize to her for not understanding. I also want to help even though I’m strapped for cash. Is there anything else I can do? -- Help for Puerto Rico, Bronx, New York

DEAR HELP FOR PUERTO RICO: When disaster strikes an area -- especially in an impoverished location -- the repair of the community takes far longer than the news coverage about it. Locals or people related to locals generally have a lot more information and tend to be more passionate about what’s happening on the ground. That may seem annoying to people on the periphery, but the reality is that, as is the case in Puerto Rico, people continue to suffer and the government was not as responsive as the citizens needed.

What you can do now is to be there for your friend. Let her know that you are sorry you were deaf to her family's challenges and that you want to help. Be clear that money is tight right now, but you hope there is something else you can do. Ask for her guidance. People may need supplies that you can help gather. There may also be a general need for awareness. Perhaps you can let your friends know that financial help is still appreciated.