Like many of us, I have gone through a lot in life and therefore I know how important it is to feel loved, appreciated and that people are there for us. I have had two depressions and I had a stroke. I could have died but I didn’t. I left the church I loved dearly, I got divorced and I left my country in 1993 to come to Belgium. The Belgian adventure was supposed to be only 3 years and I am still here. In January 2017 I lost my job because a few people with a some papers called “shares” decided that several thousand colleagues had to leave because they wanted more money in their bank accounts.
I know how it feels to be sick, to be disappointed, to have pain, to see everything double and how hard it is to learn to walk again. When you think that you can finally do it, you fall because you are going too fast and you have to tell yourself that you will get there but it will take time. I know how sometimes frustrating it is to ride a bike, lose my balance and fall and go back on it and continue my ride. These are consequences of my stroke in 2011 due to a car accident.
I have experienced loneliness very early in life. When you need people around you that love and protect you and yet those people leave you behind because they only think about themselves. From an early age I know what it is to miss the people you love and for whom you would give your life.
I know how it feels to stand up for others, to defend and protect them only to be received with ungratefulness and rudeness. I know how it feels to wish “Merry Christmas” to one of the persons you most defended and protected and that person turns his back on you and continues giving the best wishes to those who always betrayed him.
I also know the feeling of protecting, loving, taking care of someone and that person is always criticizing you, never happy with what you do and takes delight in humiliating you in front of others.
Saying this, that is why I care about people, I am there and it’s not hard to have a listening ear nor to have a shoulder for someone to cry on. Because I know the joys of victory and success but I also know how devastating it can be when life is not that fair to us. I know how it feels and how it hurts.
My grandparents on my mother’s side, are the people that from my very young age were always there for me. I loved playing with them, teasing them, being with them and most of all, taking care of them. I loved visiting them several times a week and sometimes just sitting there next to them. That made me respect the elderly and loving to listen to their stories. I still enjoy meeting old people and listening to the stories of their lives, you learn so much from them!
Society is based on money, on work successes, “time is money”, results, and yet, we have never seen so many lonely people. Not many people want to have a family, it’s the me time, my travels, my pleasures, my peace, my… People turned their faces from God and traditions and embraced money, selfishness and solitude as their divinities. People don’t care about each other anymore. As an elderly neighbour once told me “we are eager to speak to someone in Japan whom we have never met but we have a hard time to say hello to the person next to us.” I think a lot about this man and his wise words.
There are several things that amaze me in Belgium. I am astonished about how many people want a relationship and yet rationalize all sorts of excuses not to have one and be alone. I know of several people with serious illnesses and complaining that they are alone and yet they refuse all friendship, visits or contacts. “All is well” is what they say when we ask “how are you doing? Is there anything I can do for you?” When they are sick people tell each other “take good care of you, get well soon.” They never ask “is there anything I can do for you like going to the pharmacy or to the store? Do I need to bring you somewhere?”
In Belgium they have a wonderful heart and yet they are so afraid to show it with love and affection. They have time to go dancing, travelling, and yet they fail the basic obligation of visiting their elderly family members and relatives. We see people in homes that are only visited once or twice a year and yet, “let’s do it fast because we have to go out with our friends.” They complain about the price of school books but they spend a lot of money on expensive mobile phones and playstations.
In Portugal I remember that birthdays, Christmas, Easter and New Year were sacred dates. There was no excuse to miss them. If you had exams, mom would say “don’t forget to study longer today and tomorrow because in two days we have your grandmother’s birthday (even if it was on a Monday, we would have a family visit in the evening after dinner, nobody had to check the agenda’s or get an invitation, you just showed up). In Belgium I had several Christmas celebrations without several young family members because they had to study… In Belgium it’s quite common to see Christmas and birthdays celebrated weeks and months later, I just don’t get it.
I believe in family, traditions and in friendship. I believe in taking care of each other and in the high values of Mankind. I believe that men and women have the same rights and must earn the same for the same job. I believe that we should be a lot less “I” and a lot more “US”.