In October I received this first copy of the latest translation of the Bible. The ancient sources have been converted to the language of our time on the basis of the latest ideas. Also the Christmas story.
A helpless child as a sign of hope. The story of the birth of Jesus continues to appeal to the imagination. It has been said at all times and in all places. In festively lit churches. But also in barracks and bomb shelters. Everywhere and again and again he gives people comfort and courage. Even now, this Christmas, she is forced to be much more sober and calm than we all expected.
Stories give meaning and purpose to our lives. By telling and listening to stories, we connect with each other.
Each of us has our own story. After all, humans are very different. We look at life in very different ways.
We are free to think and believe what we want. Free to form and put into words our own vision of the world. Fortunately!
I have the privilege of meeting the most diverse people in my work and hearing their personal stories.
Sometimes that is a story of courage and perseverance.
Like at the Van Weel-Bethesda Hospital in Dirksland, where a nurse told me about the exhaustion of many ICU patients. I immediately thought of the war of attrition that must be for her and her colleagues. An effort to this day by all those wonderful doctors, nurses and health workers who go on and on for our health.
I also hear stories of pride and ambition.
TU Delft students working on the mobility of tomorrow: clean and climate neutral.
And the company in Deurne. It manufactures electric buses with lightweight materials and aerospace techniques. Employees told me how they started a small club and how proud they were of their team’s success.
In other stories I hear, concerns and tensions are central.
A peasant family in Overschild, in Groningen, with a dairy farm. Will one of the kids be able to take over the business in the future, with all the misery of leaking manure pits and other earthquake damage?
People from the police, fire department and ambulance care that I met last month in Rotterdam, after the irrational violence there. A police officer with 37 years of experience said: ‘I have never experienced this’. A young officer told me how he treated a victim and stones were thrown at him.
Sometimes I hear stories of intense anger and despair.
The conversation with a group of parents who got caught up in the allowance issue really impressed me. Dutch citizens whose lives have been destroyed. One of them told how she had come to Holland with her parents when she was a child. Her mother and her father had always told him: if you do your best and work hard, you can go far in this country. Now a disappointed woman sat across from me. That touched me deeply.
There are many more stories that I remember. As different as they are, it amazes me that they also have so much in common. The same elements keep coming back.
Over and over again, in everyone, there is a need to be heard. Look at me. Listen to me. Put yourself in my situation. Let me join. Let me contribute!
Stories are not lacking, but sometimes it is difficult for us to listen to them and see the people behind them. Even though we know that we can never agree on an issue, we must keep looking for what we do share. Even if the positions are widely separated, we must continue to live together.
In the midst of all the uncertainty, everyone is looking for connection. Even under the thickest armor, there is always a desire to work together with others for a better future.
Perhaps there is the seed of a shared history.
What I see is the willingness of many people, young and old, to help solve the problems that affect us all. Like the corona pandemic. But also climate change, which we ourselves have created and from which we are now suffering the consequences.
Do something about it together. Opting for an attractive prospect, for a joint venture to protect our lives on Earth. That can also be part of our history. A great story even …
It’s hard to believe in a society without history. We make that story ourselves. A new cabinet cannot be absent. They are all necessary.
We make history.
What story will be told about us later? What input do we provide?
The influence of each of us is greater than we usually think.
A beautiful Jewish saying goes: if you saved a life, you saved humanity.
I wish you all, wherever you are and whatever your personal circumstances, a blessed Christmas.