Here’s something interesting. The Kansas City Community News sent a columnist named Steve Rose to Cuba. He wrote a several posts about what he was able to see and hear – free health care, blah, blah, blah – but he says he never felt that he knew the whole story.
His latest story tells of an email he received after he got back.
Well, the e-mail that just arrived tells you all you need to know.
It comes from the restaurant manager or head waiter of a small hotel restaurant in central Cuba. As I wrote before, this man came over to my table, when I was sitting alone. The entire restaurant was virtually empty, because I had arrived just before the official opening at 7 p.m.
He stood at my table and told me in Spanish, which I understand well enough, that he is an attorney and engineer who makes $20 a month in salary. So, he must work this job at the restaurant to be able to make it.
At the end of the dinner, after the restaurant was filled, I left him a $100 tip, which is equivalent to five months of salary. If someone here made $50,000 a year, it was like leaving a $20,000 tip.
The man got tears in his eyes, and when I stood up to leave, he hugged me right in the middle of the restaurant. “No one has ever done this for me. Thank you. Thank you,” he said. I shook his hand firmly and gave him my business card and asked him to e-mail me, if he could, about how things are going for him.
Here is the e-mail I received, translated from Spanish. I have left out his name and left out the hotel’s name for obvious reasons.
“I’m the restaurant manager of the Hotel … . You gave me your e-mail to communicate with you, but it’s very difficult for economic reasons. I wanted to let you know that I wish you much health and prosperity this new year and that everything is good in your work. I’m sorry. I have to cut short this message. I know you understand.”
“Your friend, … .”
When I think of the gifts I have given over all the many holidays in my life, this ranks at the top. I hope you will think of my friend in Cuba as you share your gifts. The real gift he deserves, none of us can give him. And that, of course, is freedom.
The paper has an index of Rose’s stories here.