Sometimes, when you are busy in your own little world, happily spinning in your comfy cocoon, something happens in the world that wakes you up, pulls you out, gets you to start thinking again.
While I spent a carefree summer in Austria, watching the boys play in grandma’s garden, a lot of other people where on the journey of their lives. A journey that might end their lives or maybe give them a chance for a new one.
While I was lying in the hammock under the trees, a few white clouds sailing a happy blue summer sky, people sailed and drove and walked towards Europe. Some of them died, and we heard about it on the news, shook our heads and went on with our daily doings. It seemed far away, sad as it was.
But it got closer. Now there are thousands arriving every day at our borders, my borders. I see pictures of overflowing camps in Austria – my country. I see borders opened and closed again, trains and busses arriving, people camping on train stations because there are not enough means of transportation. I hear what the politicians say, the Hungarians, the Austrians, the Germans.
And I also see and hear about people helping – bringing food, clothes, toys, opening their houses. I see sign “refugees welcome”.
And the other ones, who think “the boat is full”, which is a especially ironic comment considering all those people on the little boats that sometimes sink.
These are the big choices we are facing now:
What will we do? What will Europe do, its politicians, its people?
Will we face this together – that was the whole point of the EU right? – or will we revert to guarding our own little countries again, shutting the doors to the problems of the world and our neighbours?
Will we find a way of helping these people without tearing ourselves apart, without deepening the crevice that already runs through our society?
Back in the Netherlands, I am sitting at my desk, wondering. This might be the biggest challenge Europe has been facing since it managed to rise again after the horrors of World War II.
Let’s hope we are up to it.