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How to make the world a better place

January 20, 2008

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 I was on the train from Amsterdam to Almere Buiten late in the rush hour this weekend. It was a bleak and rainy Friday evening, I was on the last leg of a 4 hour journey.

I heard laughter and looked down the aisle to see the train conductor( ticket collector) joking around with a small group of young people. I looked twice because lately in Holland there has been a flood of intolerance for anyone not white, particularly refugees. The conductor was white and in his mind sixties, the kids were brown- and caramel skinned and in their late twenties.

Then an extraordinary thing happened, the conductor asked them if they wanted ‘a sun’ punched in their train tickets. They said , ‘sure’, then I said, ‘Don’t tell me the train company is getting creative all of a sudden’! He replied, ‘No, it’s just me, I’ve always been creative’.  I immediately wanted a sun stamped in my card too.  For me it was a symbol of how someone in even the most mundane job could transform a situation for the better. The atmosphere in his car was so friendly and warm just through his presence, and because he had the nerve to trade the dull old perforating punch for a radiating sun.

This struck me so much because this is the same country where any kind of craft is often immediately labeled by adults as childish. And playfulness is not really the rule of the day.

The floor of his coupé was littered with little paper suns.

I thanked him, and went off refreshed and happy.

He said, ‘Next week it’s butterflies’.

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2 Responses to “How to make the world a better place”


  1. What a terrific story. I wish we could spread people like that around the world.


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