Americans are a giving lot. The Great Recession curbed financial gifts for a while, but the numbers have been rising for three years and hit $306 billion last year. We gave an additional $171 billion worth of volunteer hours.
This penchant for generosity and helping one another is rooted in westward expansion during the early days of our nation. There was no government to solve problems on the frontier, no rich people to invest in infrastructure. If settlers wanted a church or a barn or a town they had to join hands and build one.