Tuesday, December 25, 2007
Give up my Rolex for a DREAMER!? Part II
The idea of giving small gifts, or no gifts has been on my mind for a few days. I had to walk into Bed, Bath, and Beyond* last week and could feel the desperation as the other shoppers pushed their carts around in this store that seems to have everything. The store was prepared for that desperation, the aisles were so narrow (not normal for them) - maybe they were trying to stuff as much as they could in front of the shoppers in order to sell more.
While the U.S. media is always talking about poor, uneducated, or undocumented Latinos, they mostly ignore those who are not in these categories. Yet, there are so many around that have finished college and/or made lots of money, drive a BMW or a Lexus and (of course) have a Rolex.
It happened at my house. My Dad was really poor as a kid, started working full time when he was 9. As he became a financially successful adult it was very important for him to have lots of luxury items. It's true he worked very hard for all that he had - but the need to have a material display of this wealth was the most important part of this equation.
I learned well from him. I had a Concord watch (that I can't find anymore) and for many years I drove a fancy car with big monthly payments and lived in what my cousins would call a very fancy neighborhood.
This is all said in the past tense, but it's not about some big religious conversion. It's that reality began to dawn on me, especially since I've been working on the DREAMER project.
Most Latinos who make it to the middle (or higher) class want these fancy things (well, probably most people do). A watch or a ring will cost an inordinate amount. Instead of a new Honda Civic, it's a Lexus, or a BMW, a Navigator or (God forbid) even a Mercedes.
Well I have a proposal for all of us that can buy ourselves those fancy things.
How about next Christmas, instead of buying your wife that diamond ring, get her a more modest gift and donate a few thousand dollars so that a DREAMER can go to college? A number of DREAMERS I know never got their financial aide this year. They were told the applications were incomplete, but weren't informed of this even when they had turned them in many months before the deadline - some people are guessing the applications were stalled on purpose. In many states, there is no financial aide for DREAMERS. In 42 states of the union there is no in-state tuition.
Better yet, if you really need a new car, avoid the flash, look for better gas mileage (you will appreciate this later). If you save $10,000-20,000 - think of how many DREAMERS could go to college on that money?
I know you are going to say, you don't have that kind of cash, you pay the car in payments. Well then start a savings account "in payments" - once you get a few thousand together, find the kid that wants to go to school, is a DREAMER, has good grades, and lots of potential. If you think you can't find one, ask a few high school counselors - eventually you should find one (like David Johnston at Lee High School in Houston) that know exactly where the money could go (Lee High School has had a number of valedictorians who were DREAMERS)
If you want to give it to a charity - the NYT recommends you check charitywatch.org to see if most of the donations go to actual services or scholarships.
*Disclosure: I admit, I went to Bed, Bath, and Beyond to buy a Christmas present that was over $20.00
Rolex image: http://images.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://www.limitedwatches.net/IMAGES/Romanandbezles/diamonddaytona1.jpg&imgrefurl=http://www.limitedwatches.net/rolexdaytonapage.html&h=682&w=475&sz=56&hl=en&start=1&sig2=DEB6sxrVANIZeK2lJ5Hjmg&um=1&tbnid=z4Y-EEJln_EtAM:&tbnh=139&tbnw=97&ei=hEtxR8G7Kp7mhQPegLmCBw&prev=/images%3Fq%3DAUTHENTIC%2BROLEX%26svnum%3D10%26um%3D1%26hl%3Den%26safe%3Dactive%26client%3Dsafari%26rls%3Den-us%26sa%3DN
DREAM Act rally: http://peoplesproductionhouse.org/sites/peoplesproductionhouse.org/files/images/dream_act_rally.JPG