My Christmas Cuban Missile Crisis

It has become more and more common that simple kindness is disappearing from our cities and lives. Parking lots littered with abandoned shopping carts, orphaned garbage and recyclables on the sidewalk, even being cut off in traffic enough times in one day to make you forget about being a Christian.
So what holds us back from just being a good human? I have been struck by the thought that our busy lives and consumeristic culture has us moving ahead and achieving without ceasing and it might be the issue. The problem is, accomplishing what we think will bring us true happiness hasn’t worked for the last 4000 years, and it won’t start anytime soon. We can’t waste time breathing, we can’t inconvenience ourselves on purpose or let someone else get ahead, because we might miss an opportunity or be uncomfortable for a few moments.
What if the playing field of life was levelled and there was no pecking order? Would we still act and behave in the same manner? Maybe, maybe not. Just think about a world where no one acts like that family cruising in a station wagon chanting “O Doyle rules.”
I thought about this while in Cuba over Christmas this year. Not about the O Dolyle family but about the absence of the consumer drive and push for greatness. In Cuba it was evident… and refreshing. Discarded items were made new and re-sold, there was no concern for high fashion or image, and just having a place to sleep was success and high five worthy. Forget about needing a new colour of paint on the walls every two years, it just doesn’t matter in this context.
One day we went into the city to do some exploring and go out for dinner. We did a lot of walking while trying to take in the uniqueness of the beautiful city.  We even stopped to let the kids play in a rustic playgrounds we came across. (You can do a lot with some re-bar and wooden planks!) On the way home, we were crammed into a bus, trying to go from the city centre back to our hotel, and of course there were no seats. Jude and Ida were both falling asleep from a long day on their feet,  so we used our parent skills to prop them up on a rail so they could doze off for a while. It was uncomfortable for all of us, but as any parent knows, you have to do what you have to do.
Then I was taken back by what happened next. A big fellow with a Russian accent forced me into his seat with Jude on my knee. I thought I was about to be mugged. I kept a hand on my wallet and one on my son. But the action was kind, it just took a few seconds to realize it. Now one of our kids was finally falling asleep on the crowded bus. He was comfortable leaning on both me and the window. For him this was safety and comfort.
Then it happened again.  A lady travelling with him (older than me and younger than my parents, but clearly with mobility issues and needing her seat) sat next to us and motioned for Ida to come over. Before I realized it, Ida was parked on a strange ladies lap, who was reassuring her in a kind and grandmotherly Russian/ Spanish conversation.  I was confused at first with what was happening. Why on earth would a stranger want to grab and hold my child? To be nice? Or were we going to end up on a re-enactment of a child napping on tv? This is when I had to stop thinking the worst of everyone that surrounds my existence and uses a different language.
Some people are actually kind. Some people will put themselves into discomfort for the sake of human decency. It was funny reflecting that Idas great great grand parents actually immigrated from South Russia and her complexion and facial features made her fit right in with our new friends.
The overly accommodating Cubans and Russians with their crazy (to us) politics actually level peoples status as much as possible. This quite possibly adds a spark of kindness back into their lives. (not a political statement 🙂 )
It is clear to me that the kindness of the people, the slower paced life, and the desire to help a stranger are a direct result of not living a materialistic lifestyle. The more we have the less we tend to care about others, the more we give away and share from our storehouses, the more our hearts become a little more willing to let a stranger sit in our chair.
Thinking about humanity over Christmas might be a better move than accumulating things you don’t actually need or… even want. Give, share, be kind… it makes you more human.
Being human is just that, being human and connecting with the people that are around you. What if we made an effort to just be a little more human.
Jean Vanier said, ““I am struck by how sharing our weakness and difficulties is more nourishing to others than sharing our qualities and successes.”
** This was written and typed on my phone, so back off grammar police 🙂 **

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