King Willem-Alexander’s speech in full:
In October I received this first copy of the latest Bible translation. The old sources have been converted into the language of our time on the basis of the latest insights. Also the Christmas story.
A defenceless child as a sign of hope. The story of the birth of Jesus continues to appeal to the imagination. It has been told in all times and in all places. In festively lit churches. But also in barracks and bomb shelters. Everywhere and again and again it gives people comfort and courage. Even now, this Christmas, which is forced to be so much more sober and quieter than we all hoped.
Stories give meaning and purpose to our lives. By telling and listening to stories, we connect with each other.
Each of us has our own story. After all, we humans are very different. We look at life in very different ways.
We are free to think and believe what we want. Free to form and put into words our own world view. Fortunately!
I have the privilege of meeting the most diverse people in my work and hearing their personal stories.
Sometimes that is a story of courage and perseverance.
Like in the Van Weel-Bethesda Hospital in Dirksland, where a nurse told me about the exhaustion of many patients in the ICU. I immediately thought of the war of attrition it must be for her and her colleagues. An effort to this day by all those wonderful doctors, nurses and healthcare workers who go on and on for our health.
I also hear stories of pride and ambition.
Students at TU Delft who are working on the mobility of tomorrow: clean and climate neutral.
And the company in Deurne. It makes electric buses with lightweight materials and techniques from aerospace. The employees told me how they started with a small club and how proud they were of the success of their team.
In other stories I hear, worries and tensions are central.
A farming family in Overschild, in Groningen, with a dairy farm. Will one of the children still be able to take over the company in the future, with all the misery of leaking manure pits and other earthquake damage?
People from the police, fire brigade and ambulance care that I met last month in Rotterdam, after the irrational violence there. A police officer with 37 years of experience said: ‘I have never experienced this’. A young officer told me how he took care of a victim and was pelted with stones.
Sometimes I hear stories of intense anger and despair.
The conversation with a group of parents who got caught up in the allowance affair made a big impression on me. Dutch citizens whose lives have been destroyed. One of them told how she had come to the Netherlands with her parents as a little girl. Her mother and father had always told her: if you do your best and work hard, you can go far in this country. Now a disappointed woman sat opposite me. That touched me deeply.
There are many more stories I remember. As different as they are, it strikes me that they also have a lot in common. The same elements keep coming back.
Again and again – in everyone – there is a need to be heard. Look at me. Listen to me. Put yourself in my situation. Let me join in. Let me contribute!
We don’t lack stories, but we sometimes struggle to listen to them and see the people behind them. Even if we know that we can never agree on one subject, we must keep looking for what we do share. Even if points of view are far apart, we must continue to live together.
In the midst of all the uncertainty, everyone is looking for connection. Even under the thickest armor there is always the desire to work together with others for a better future.
Perhaps therein lies the seed for a shared story.
What I see is the willingness of many people – young and old – to help solve problems that affect us all. Like the coronavirus pandemic. But also the climate change, which we have created ourselves and of which we are now experiencing the consequences.