Let the beauty of what you love be what you do. Rumi saying.
I love so many things, so many people. I seem to be that person who is always open and positive. I try to be that way, but sometimes I do get sad. Mostly this has to do with a harbour of disappointment that overflows my ship of perspective. I usually suck it in, go my own way and try to push that particular feeling aside. Knowing that my way of thinking, my way of experiencing life is not necessarily the way everyone else views their life or the world.
Still, last Friday I experienced something that can’t be left unsaid. Yeah sure – at the time I kept my thoughts to myself, but here I am now: sharing my emotions.
It’s like this. I commute between home and office 4 days a week. Most of the time I have a “pit stop” at Schiphol, and then continue my journey to Amsterdam.
For a while now, I noticed that people who use the toilets don’t see the cleaning ladies and men who make sure we can use clean toilets. And with “don’t see” I don’t mean that these men and women are physically blind, no – they don’t want to see the cleaning people. They don’t share a look, a smile or even a plain “goodmorning” with them.
How many times have we not entered a public toilet to see that it’s filthy beyond belief? You get out of there before your nose sets the alarm: nasty!!!
These are the people that don’t get to run away from the filth that one of us left there. They stay. And get the job done. So you and I can continue to do our thing in that little room.
When I see the cleaning lady, busy with her cleaning cart, or cleaning water faucets, or bend over toilets, I always say hello. With such enthusiasm that I get a surprised look or smile many times. Surprised because I notice them. Surprised because I said hello. Surprised that anyone said hello.
This isn’t a showcase of how good or friendly I am. No. I just want to make a point. They are surprised because they are used to being ignored.
Why is that? Why do we: the commuters, the tourists don’t bother to greet them? They are human just like you and I.
Now, the cleaning people at Amsterdam Central Station have been on strike for a week. In their opinion and the opinion of the union, the wages are too low. Keep in mind that these people do the work that most of us don’t want to do.
During that time the garbage in, on and surrounding the trash cans have piled up. There are leftover newspapers on stairs. Pieces of papers are sticking to the walls. So you’d think that the commuters and tourists will hesitate to add to the already existing garbage dump. But no. Obviously we have become so ignorant and selfabsorbed sometimes, that we don’t even consider to take our leftover fast food, used tissues, and paper or plastic wrappings elsewhere. What would it costs us to just put the wrappings or used tissues in our bag until we find a empty trash can somewhere else in the city? It wouldn’t hurt, would it?
This is what I witnessed at the end of a Thursday afternoon:
A woman blowed her nose while still walking, stopped by the pile of garbage – which, and I don’t exaggerate, was knee high – wiped her nose, and without giving it any more thought, threw it on the pile. Leaving me flabbergasted. I passed her, and I must admit, gave her a angry look, but I don’t even think she noticed my amazement. I considered turning and confronting her, but decided that it wouldn’t make a difference. I maybe even have gotten a “it’s none of your business” comment, it was Amsterdam after all. Nowadays you never know how people will react. So I just left it as it was. I continued my way up the escalator to catch my train, but must say that even now, three days later, I’m still wondering why I didn’t say anything. Did I chicken out? Did I keep still because I was afraid of the reaction? Or worse: didn’t I bother because this is the way the world works today? We just go our own way?
I keep thinking about a song by the late Michael Jackson: Man in the mirror.
Next time I’ll find the courage to say something. Because I am that (wo)man in the mirror.