The day before yesterday at 10:30 pm I turned off the light in our living room while I was chewing on a bite of my evening snack. Reinier wasn’t home yet, but this momma had to go to bed. Outside I heard the noise of wailing sirens of a few ambulances. For a moment it crossed my mind… This sound used to upset me and it always used to remind me of the fact that someone must be in great need. For a while I even made it a habit to say a silent prayer as soon a heard the sirens. But after 4 years of downtown Amsterdam it had become so normal, just a part of city life.
Endless times I had seen the stream of cars in front of our house rush to the sides to make room for emergency services. Ambulances, firetrucks, polices, special forces. It all passes by. Regularly, and often more than once a day. Nothing in me even thought of turning around to have a look out of the window to see what had just happened. Leave alone to pick up my old habit of saying a prayer for the stranger in need. By the time I also wanted to switch the kitchen light of my eye fell on a cup that I had left in the windowsill and I walked over to get it. I like my house tidy and neat when I wake up in the morning to start the tight routine of getting 3 kids to school by 8 am. As I walked over in the dark to pick up the cup that was left in the living room, my eyes were automatically drawn to the flashing lights outside and I saw the white and red marked area in my ‘front yard.’ 2 ambulances, 3 police cars and a firetruck had randomly stopped in the middle of the street as if someone had stopped the time. A tram was waiting with blinking lights by the blocked road. Its passengers most likely annoyedly texting their friends telling them they got stuck in public transportation for some stupid reason again. I swallowed my last bite of my cracker with cheese and found myself not being able to walk away. My glance got stuck on a knelt down ambulance staff that was giving his everything to continuously doing CPR on a person who was lying on the ground. Although all the surrounding people, which are still a lot at this time and place in Amsterdam, were kept at a distance by the red and white tape, it felt as if I was right there in the situation from my spot in our own living room. Strangely enough I could not not watch and without really thinking about it I said a short prayer. It had just overwhelmed me that there was a person lying there, fighting for its life. How could it be that the sound of sirens ever had become normal to me when these are the situations what they are all about?
The next morning when we once again made the 8 o’clock deadline with the kids I came across the following news message on the local news… “The severely injured man who was found last night on the Damrak near Central Station passed away. This was reported to the police. The victim was a 24-year-old man with no fixed abode. Shortly after 10:30 the man collapsed. He appeared to have a stab wound in his chest. He got CPR and was taken to the hospital. There he died to his injuries. ” The rest of the day it weighed on me like a heavy cloud. There was nothing I could have done about it, I didn’t even know who he was… still I couldn’t put it aside me.
By the end of this afternoon me and Noélani made our way to the busstop to get to swimming class. We were excited because today was the first time to be in the group for the last level before she would get her certificate. A milestone for an 8 year old and not even to mention for the proud mother. After the traffic light turned green we joined the crowd in crossing the street. I took a look at the stream of people. Calling businessmen, young folks with bags full sale items of H&M and Pull and Bear, mothers with warmly dressed kids in the newest Bugaboos, lovebird couples, tons of tourists… one by one they carelessly put their feet on the place where less than 24 hours ago someone had been fighting for his life on the cold ground. There was no flower, no letter, no teddybear… was there even someone after all that would miss this 24-year old man with no fixed abode, or in other words homeless guy? Who did the police call last night when he passed away in the hospital? Who would cry about him, miss him, mourn for this empty place? For me he had become someone. Not just a siren with a situation.
Once again it stopped me that in this city anonymity and loneliness is so many people’s daily reality. And the strange thing is, finding it horrible at the same time, that way too many times I join in to that flow of business and getting my own to do list done. And that the one, maybe that very one that God will put right in front of me on that day, I just pass by without a blink, while making up an excuse to justify myself.
Being an ambassador of Jesus in a city that is full of anonymity is not easy, but at the same time it’s right in front of me. I committed myself once again to stop for the one. To not think about myself in the first place for a moment. To think that one is somebody else’s business, or maybe he should take care of his own business. Maybe he or she, for that day, actually is my business.