November 2019 / grace tells 004
"Dare to make a difference"
By: Grace&Us, Images by @edwinsmulders and Rossana Kluivert
Ever since Rossana Kluivert (47) was small, she had been aware of the world around her. And saw all the differences that exist. But, she also learned that it’s easy to help others.
I was about seven years old when I asked my parents why children in Africa had no food and every night I had trouble emptying my full plate. I thought it was so unfair, that inequality. My father was born on the Cape Verde Islands and was hungry as a child, so he had one goal in mind: my children will always have something to eat. So our table was full every night, and because I was a slender girl he filled my plate extra full. Fortunately my Frisian mother knew better, but many evenings I had to sit down at the table to get rid of my plate of stew and it made me think about how things are divided in this world, how could I have so much and a girl of my age who happened to be born in Africa almost nothing? Then I might as well send some food that way? My aunt allowed me to do that. She saw how sensitive I was and how intensely sad I became when I saw images of starving children on television. She allowed me to eat my food, and that evening we put the extra mashed potatoes and broccoli in front of me in an envelope to send. She made me think that the thick envelope would arrive because she saw how important it was for me. I think the postman who had to empty the box that day looked up strangely, but I learned an important lesson. If you want to help others, you don’t have to do great things, all you have to do is get moving.
– “What I do doesn’t matter, as long as I do something good every day.”
Family and travel
Over the years I have adopted the principle of ‘doing something good every day’. Before I go to sleep, I think about the things I did to help someone. These are simple gestures: helping someone cross the street, telling someone that they look super nice, drinking coffee with a girlfriend who needs a shoulder for a moment, or giving my clothes away to people who will get better use from them than me. What I do doesn’t matter, as long as I do something good every day. Not everyone has that self-evidence. When we, as a family, were ready to help refugees who were temporarily housed in the tennis hall of our village, I was amazed by all the comments we received: why would we do that? You had to be especially careful with those people. And can our children still cycle around safely? It affected me deeply, not only the prejudices, but also that the worst was immediately assumed. While a very simple gesture like a pair of new underwear can make a world of difference. That was weird, why do you give those people underwear? I always asked a counter-question: what do you think it is like if you have been on a rickety boat with your family, soaking wet and scared, and then end up in a country you don’t know, having to go through months without underwear? I wouldn’t like it, and I’d be very happy if I had the opportunity to give my children and myself a clean pair of underpants. I brought piles of sets to the tennis hall and saw how a simple gesture can have a lot of impact. There were acknowledgments, understanding, tears, hugs. The impact of doing something good goes both ways. They in turn also gave me a lot of love and energy back. I am still in contact with some of the refugees I met who were with us in the village at the time.
– “The impact of doing something good goes both ways.”
The way people looked at the refugees who landed in our village made me think. I realized that people often judge out of fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of change and fear of losing something. But fear is never a good counselor, because it ensures that you do not look at what is there, love, joy, gratitude, but remain stuck in yourself. It also ensures that you don’t see how beautiful doing good is. And that so little is needed for that. I also taught my children to do something good for someone else. And that you should not approach things with anger or fear, but with an open mind. In this world we will have to do it together. When I look at my daughter and her friends, I have an intense faith in the next generation. They are all smart, worldly and empathetic women who are not afraid to give their opinion and to roll up their sleeves when needed. Something my daughter passes on to her brothers as a big sister.
Doing something good every day is as easy as it sounds. If you dare not to respond from fear, but from your heart, you can make a difference for someone else. When I see that around me, I am not only very happy, it also makes me feel comfortable. Because later, when I’m 90, I can still enjoy a beautiful, loving world.
You can safely call Rossana Kluivert a centipede, because she’s always busy. She was a stylist for years, but is now best known for her love of animals in general and dogs in particular. She tackle the problem of stray dogs in Curaçao with her Kluivert Dog Rescue Foundation. She lives with her husband and son Shane in Barcelona – where Shane plays football. She also has a daughter, Demi, and son, Nino from a previous relationship.
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