I am a native from Amsterdam. I am not a fanatic when it concerns my place of birth and do not regularly track the results of the Ajax soccer club. But . . . Amsterdam will always remain a very special place for me. However, in all honesty I must admit that Rotterdam also has a lot to commend itself.
I do not know Rotterdam as well as I know Amsterdam. So, last Tuesday I decided it was time to pay Rotterdam a visit. As a retiree with a reduction card for public travel, I still had a free rail ticket that I was supposed to use before January 31.
I greatly enjoyed walking around in the center of Rotterdam. The Laurens Church is certainly not one of the oldest large church buildings in the Netherlands, but it is a very beautiful one. So far I had only once been inside that church. This was at some time in the 1990s when the Dutch Adventist Church had rented this facility to organize a one-day spiritual congress. I remember it as one least successful national events that the denomination organized in the last few decades. However, admittedly, it was a sheer impossibility to give some 1500 Adventists an experience of serene rest I such an historic edifice. Let alone that such a large group of people could be served by just two toilets!
But last Tuesday I could enjoy the quiet atmosphere of the church as well as the permanent exhibition. I left the building with some new bits of information. I now know that St. Laurentius was a martyr who served as deacon in the church of Rome in the third century AD. He had been entrusted with the care of the sacred books. Being a book-man he must have been a nice person! It seems right that this church in Rotterdam bears his name. He has, by the way, also become the patron saint of the librarians!
I also visited with great interest the small exposition building adjacent to a major, very spectacular building site. The new Covered Market has not yet been completed, but is already dominating the area around the Blaak. And there were a few other places that filled my day most agreeably.
However, I also had a less pleasant experience. I was almost run over by a mobility scooter that crossed my path with a somewhat reckless speed. For the rest of the day I paid attention to mobility scooters and was amazed to see so many of them, and also the large number of people with a ‘rollator’ (walker). It is great to notice the increasing array of technical support that enables people to remain mobile inside and outside their home. One could also mention quite a few other technical means that are available for people with deep pockets to make life in old age easier. We hear from time to time about government intentions to economize on subsides for these things that help people stay mobile. I hope they will do this in a sensible way, so that low income people will not have to do without their mobility scooters or ‘rollators’.
As I took the train again in the afternoon, I gave this some further thought. The Dutch government is currently promoting a kind of society in which people are willing to help one another and do not always rely on government assistance. This seems quite reasonable, for we are social beings and have a certain responsibility for one another. This is part of what it means to be a human being, and certainly an aspect of being a Christian. Yet, this has its limitations in the kind of world in which we live. Not all our relatives live within walking distance in the same village, and our lives are often so hectic that we cannot give our relatives the care we would like to give. It is, however, good that we are reminded that we must try to care for one another.
Quite a few years ago I saw a documentary about hospitals in Burkina Faso (a state in sub-Sahel Africa) and Switzerland. A Swiss citizen, who was accustomed to high-tech medical care expressed the hope that he would never end up in a primitive hospital in Burkina Faso. But the man from Burkina Faso, who visited a hospital in Switzerland, was also appalled by what he saw. No, he would not want to be cared for in such a hospital. ‘For,’ he said, ‘is is a place where people die alone!’
Let us hope that we can continue to use the technical means that have proved to be such a blessing for so many people. But let us also contribute to a society where people care for each other. Call it what you like. Maybe we should just call it ‘love for our neighbor.’
At the same time we must beware of the many (mostly) elderly fellow-citizens who threaten to kill us with their mobility scooters.