I don’t know if this will become a regular Sunday feature, but when I heard Governor Cuomo read the letter from the Kansas farmer on Friday morning, I knew that I wanted to share the letter and the governor’s comments here. I’m taking the liberty of reprinting the photos that accompanied an article, in the Lawrence Journal-World, about the Kansas farm couple who wrote him.
My grandmother on my father’s side, Mary, was a beautiful woman, but tough. She was New York tough. Gone through the Depression, early immigrant, worked hard all her life, and she was a little rough-hewn. I would say to her, “You know, Grandma, I met this girl, met this guy, they’re really nice.” And she would say, “Nice? How do you know they’re nice? It’s easy to be nice when everything is nice.” I said, “Grandma, what does that mean?” She said, “You know when you know if they’re nice? When things get hard. That’s when you know if they’re nice.”
It’s easy to be nice and kind and affable when everything is easy. You really get to see people, and get to see character, when things get hard. When the pressure is on is when you really get to see true colors of a person and see what they are made of. It’s almost as if the pressure just forces their character, and the weaknesses explode or the strengths explode.
And personally, I’ll tell you the truth. Some people break your heart. They just break your heart. People who I thought would rise to the occasion, people who I thought were strong, under pressure, they just crumbled. They just crumbled. On the other hand, you see people who you didn’t expect anything from rise to the occasion. The best and the worst of humanity just comes up to the surface, on both ends. Everything gets elevated. The strength in people and the weakness in people. The beauty in people and the ugliness in people. You see both. For me, the beauty and the strength compensates and balances for the weakness, and I get inspired by the strength so I can tolerate the heartbreak of the weakness.
Here’s a letter that I received that just sums it up.
“Dear Mr. Cuomo,
“I seriously doubt that you will ever read this letter, as I know you are busy beyond belief with the disaster that has befallen our country. We are a nation in crisis. Of that, there is no doubt. I am a retired farmer hunkered down in northeast Kansas with my wife, who has but one lung and occasional problems with her remaining lung. She also has diabetes. We are in our 70s now, and frankly, I am afraid for her.
“Enclosed, find a solitary N95 mask left over from my farming days. It has never been used. If you could, would you please give this mask to a nurse or doctor in your state? I have kept four masks for my immediate family.
“Please keep on doing what you do so well, which is to lead.
“Dennis and Sharon”
A farmer in northeast Kansas, his wife has one lung and diabetes. He has five masks. He sends one mask to New York for a doctor or a nurse, keeps four masks. You want to talk about a snapshot of humanity. You have five masks. What do you do? Do you keep all five? Do you hide the five masks? Do you keep them for yourselves or others? No. You send one mask to New York to help a nurse or a doctor.
How beautiful is that? How selfless is that? How giving is that? That’s the nursing home in Niskayuna (a town northeast of Albany) that sent 100 ventilators down to New York City when they needed them. It’s that love, that courage, that generosity of spirit that makes this country so beautiful and makes Americans so beautiful. It’s that generosity of spirit, for me, makes up for all the ugliness that you see. Take one mask. I’ll keep four. God bless America.