A month ago today, I landed in Havana, Cuba on a humanitarian mission.
We spent six days traveling around the island, learning about 500 years of history, understanding the hardships and turmoil Cubans have faced since the 1961 revolution, and meeting with religious groups to distribute much-needed medical supplies.
Cuba is an extremely poor country where shortages and rationing are part of daily life. Life under the Castros has been challenging for most ordinary Cubans–especially after the collapse of the Soviet Union in the late 1980s.
Yet, wherever we went, we found the people to be warm and friendly. They are used to extreme shortages of such important commodities as oil, and to water that must be boiled before being used. They need to machine their own parts to keep 70-year old classic American cars running. They stand in line every week to get food rations–and yet, none of this phases them. They remain both resilient and resourceful.
A month later, we are facing the worst global medical crisis in a century. Nearly 8 million people in the Bay Area are in a lockdown situation, and similar moves are being taken around the country and the world to combat the coronavirus.
There are stories of people going the extra mile to help those who are most vulnerable during this pandemic. But for every story of kindness and goodwill, we see examples of people unnecessarily hoarding toilet paper, food, and bottled water.
The people in Cuba would never hoard these items–because they couldn’t get a hold of enough of these things to hoard.
Here, in one of the richest countries on earth, we would do well to learn from those who have survived much worse situations–while remaining resourceful and resilient.
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