Championing the Best
Some stories, moments or situations bring to bear a particular feeling of human
kinship and solidarity. There can be a sudden knowing when something experienced,
heard or read, can call upon us to take the trouble to deeper understand and
perceive the situation of another - and, if needed, to help out... These acts
convey a sense of friendship, kinship and companionship, and a feeling that
these things are an important part in the human make up. They suggest that the
resources for humanity and solidarity are endless whenever we choose to tap
These stories and moments, which happen in multiple ways every
day all around the world, speak their own truth in a world that many people
perceive as a hardening one. Most daily newspapers bring us all the news to
do with accidents, theft, scandals, murder etc., and it seems to far outweigh
the news or the articles that speaks for the good that is done.
A Topaz reporter in Holland caught one of these moments in a
conversation with someone who brings their inventiveness and skills in helping
Ron Hubner reports from his encounter with Johan van Heuvel.
Johan van Heuvel, a Dutchman living in the west of Holland, is a proficient
and talented craftsman, with many practical skills and adept with his hands.
He applies these gifts in simple ways, to make a difference to the lives of
many people around him. His view is that this ability he has, allows him to
bring easement to others who would become stressed or in discomfort without
his support.. Recently I was fortunate enough to hear his story.
I had already seen Johan a few times, and it was during a social event that
we had the opportunity to sit down and speak. I had gone to the bar and while
waiting for my order I turned to my right and found myself looking at an elderly
man with keen, bright eyes. He had a thin, angular face, grey-brown hair and
a pair of bushy eyebrows. It was Johan, and he gave me a friendly nod. Nodding
back, I suddenly noticed that the glasses he wore had been repaired. The left
glass had broken close to the frame and it had been fixed with considerable
care and skill. He saw me looking and told me that he had thought it would
be a shame to throw away the broken glasses since the rest was not defective.
So he fixed it.
So we began to talk and from the conversation that followed I came to hear
some of his story. Johan began by speaking about his love of working with his
hands and his ability to invent and create. As a 6-year-old he already knew
that more than anything he wanted to make things and he has successfully done
this all his life, and he turns 74 this year. Throughout his career he has been
able to make a living by designing types of chairs and other household items.
Johan is clearly a resourceful man, “I try to be resourceful and economical
with what the planet provides us with”. He has a natural respect for the
resources of the planet and the amount of time involved in creating these resources.
Likewise he respects the time, care and effort people have put in to making
something useful or beautiful from raw materials. It clearly pains Johan that
so much is wasted and abandoned in today’s society, like the number of
household appliances and pieces of furniture that are discarded because of minor
defects. For Johan, the dumping stations provided by the local council are a
gathering point where he can obtain useful items for his work.
Throughout all that Johan does is a passionate motivation to help to bring easement
to other people. He uses his skills and his desire to not let things go to waste
to help others, to help those who have not got his skills or who cannot do certain
things for themselves, perhaps due to blindness or disability. Many of the people
that he helps would not be able to pay for the repair work that he provides.
Johan gets names and addresses through the welfare department in his local community,
and he can regularly be seen on his bike, loaded with a tool box, riding to
a house to mend a leaking tap, a broken lock or a defective television. Many
of these jobs call upon his creative ability to find solutions in replacing
parts which are not available any more. He also regularly visits the local children’s
home run by the Salvation Army, where he repairs dollhouse furniture or other
toys that have been damaged because of their intensive usage.
Whilst we sit and drink a beer together I ask Johan why he does what he does.
He pauses a moment and says: “Because I cannot not do it - it is as simple
as that. If somebody tried to stop me, I would still continue, simply because
I cannot not do it. I feel that my whole life has been a training in body and
mind to do this, to repair things. This is what I love doing and at the same
time I can give service by helping others. That is why I do it”.
“I have enough to eat and to drink and I have somewhere to live. If
needed I could earn more money, but I do not really need it, so I don’t.
Besides, there is far more reward in helping another, for I feel it allows me
to exercise the gifts I have been given. That feeling is priceless. So the people
I help, help me by making me feel the reward of satisfaction and value. I am
inspired by the story of Snowflake related in the previous
Topaz, wherein one single snowflake makes a difference. I view myself as
a small grain of sand on a beach, smaller than a snowflake, but I hope that
through the things I do I will help to make a difference towards a better world”.
In saying good bye to Johan I felt a well-being and quietness. The conversation
had made me think about the troubled times we are living in and about how many
other people like Johan there are that must live and work in this world. These
people continue to hold a light that is enhancing to be near and more importantly
that can contage others to find their way of giving a little goodness back to
Ron Hubner, The Netherlands