33) X & Y, betrayal and trust

In the past few months, I took part in a training programme about peace-building, conflict transformation and reconciliation between people. We were a group of (approximately) 20 young people from all over Europe and the Caucasus region. It brings back some hope since the whole week was all about helping our societies. But without romanticising it, I want to tell one story out of that programme, which shows again: small things matter. 

We played the X-Y game. Several groups compete against each other, trying to gain as much as possible. In several rounds, the groups vote secretly for X or Y. When a group only cares for itself, it will vote for X. If you although don’t care about your groups gains, but start to think and care for all groups, you vote for Y. If every group votes for Y, than everyone can be happy, but if the other groups vote for X (or just one does), the Y group loses. So the game comes down to trust, hope, fighting for the community instead of selfishness. 

What happened in our group was that we started voting for Y. Every single round. We lost most of the rounds, but we kept with the Y. A pact was made between the gorps and violated by one group. We stayed with the Y. We said, “if we now also vote for X, we are no better but also just care for ourselves and nothing can change”. At the end we had the most minus points of all groups.

Where is the good message in that? Didn’t it show that sharing and humanity did not work out? No, this game works out differently every single time you play it. And in the reflection time afterwards, the best part came. We had an observer for the group, because he had played the game before in a different training. And watching us changed him.

He said, the last time he played his group only voted for themselves. Completely different to us. Seeing us voting for the bigger group surprised him. And he, a rather quiet person, said that by watching us, he found some trust again and saw a positive side in humans again. Some hope. He said this at the end of the training programme again, as one of the main things he took away from this training: trust.

I had no idea, that this could make such an impression, that it could affect the mindset of a person this much. It was so good to hear. He did not only think that way, it was also important enough to share this change with us.

One person matters, every single thing we do matters, even if it is in a game. So every single thing we change matters as well.

32) All together

At the beginning of February, the consequences of the regional parliaments elections in Thuringia were responsible for a lot of chaos when a new regional Minister President was elected. Outrage, emotions, political interest… suddenly, the whole population seemed to be awake. This story is not about which party people supported- but about the fact that people stood up for democracy, that they did not accept it or looked away when democracy was violated. Because this gave hope  back to some people, as a friend showed: 

“The past few days have fulfilled me with deep fear and disbelieve. About how history-forgotten and selfish people in powerful positions can be. And what they put up with just to follow their aspirations.

On February 5th my roommate and I were busy distracting ourselves from writing our respective bachelor thesis when we heard the news about the election of the Minister President in Thuringia. Shock was spreading, we had joked a few months ago that the FDP had come out of its insignificance, and now they suddenly presented the new Minister President? Seriously? Not only that with 5% of the votes you don’t show the majority will of the population, no, he had also let the fascists of the AFD lift him into office by a few steps (Here it should be noted that it is legally legitimate to call Höcke a fascist, there was a court judgement). We were speechless.

The first shock ebbed away and we began to research to find out the exact course of events.  There had to be something we could do. We soon realised that we were not alone with our indignation, everywhere people were calling for demonstrations and solidarity with the demos. The demand for immediate resignation spread like wildfire among the people.

Less than an hour after the public announcement of the election results, there was a demonstration at the state parliament in Erfurt, as well as in Jena, Weimar and Gera, and on the same day people in Leipzig, Berlin, Hamburg and other places throughout Germany came together. This feeling of solidarity and support strengthened me and gave me confidence. 

In the following days I followed the latest events with fascination. On the 8th of February I could finally breathe a sigh of relief. The Minister President had resigned, change would come!

I am grateful to all those who objected, who took to the streets, who showed solidarity and showed what democracy is and what humanity means.”

31) Letting go

Sometimes it seems human enough if people act totally normal. In the sense of not doing anything bad. That I see as something positive.

I noticed that when traveling through Georgia. To listen for three hours to the partly tiring questions of the seat mate in the plane was rewarded with an offer for a ride from the airport into town. After a short judgement whether we should trust the honesty of the tow young men, we  were taken half an hour to the next town and to our accommodation. It was not even on the way of our drivers, nevertheless they asked their way through the streets of Georgia to our address and drove us their safe. That was in itself already very kind. Especially happy made us however that they did not ask for anything in return (was is otherwise often the case). Also no questions for the phone number, future contact or any other kind of importunity. 

It could be sad, that this is something special, but for me it was just a positive example.

30) The Journey of a Wallet

“Now I also have a story 🙈

A friend and I are currently travelling in South- East- Asia and are hitchhiking at the moment through Vietnam. Yesterday we forgot a wallet with a drivers license and a credit card in the car of our ride share. We only noticed 100km later, when we were already in another ride share. We knew nothing, no name, not even the number plate or where the car went. Therefore we hitchhiked back those 100 km and asked the people from the town, where we had left, if they knew the driver or if they could help us somehow. They shared our problem on facebook and that way the message was spreading quickly, that two foreigners from Germany had lost a wallet. At the same time, our driver had found the wallet and posted as well, that he had the wallet of two foreigners. After we had been invited twice for food, we eventually got over several ways and people and with a lot of help and friendly locals our wallet back. A bus driver brought it to us.

I hope this is understandable explained 🙈😂 It was really confusing and we also don’t know exactly how the wallet found back to us 🙈”

This is a story in which humans actually act better than I would expect- that is wonderful to hear. Communication is everything.

29) Act to impress?

These stories stimulate some thinking- where does humanity start?

“Thanks to the one story I came to the idea to tell you an event that has some similarity. I do run the risk of spread the uncomfortable smell of self-praise. In fact, I’m concerned with the question: Why do humans do something “good”?

My uncle Karl, who lives in Tanneberg in the Erzgebirge [at the Eastern border of Germany] survived the first world war safe, his sons however not the second one. One died in France, another one in the Ukraine and the third one starved to death in Soviet captivity.

Decades later I visited him in Tannenberg. Uncle Karl, by now over eighty years old and widower, showed me a letter from the German War Graves Commission, that notified him that the bones of his son, who died in Le Havre, were moved to a central German military cemetery 150 kilometres West of Paris. I said: ‘uncle Karl, we are going there’. As a retired man, he was allowed to visit us in Stuttgart [the narration takes place in the time before German reunion, where this was not self-evident] and together we went on a big journey through France. We stayed over night close to Sacré-Cœur, visited the Eifel tower and other sights and found after our continued travel the grave of my cousin on a huge field. Somehow we also had the desire to get to know Le Havre. Close to the beach we found ourselves in a festival-like event. It was the annual celebration of the D-day.

On the way home we stopped another time in Paris. In a restaurant we witnessed how two waiters took of the coat of a poorly looking guest and wanted to keep it, because he could not pay. Spontaneously I intervened, asked of how much they were talking about and payed the sum. Later I asked myself whether I just did that to impress my uncle Karl. At the beginning, I denied. As a former member of the Hitler Youth I traveled in my younger years always full of guilt abroad and would have used as a patriotic thinking person every opportunity to show a more positive sight of us Germans. But if I had been sitting alone in a German restaurant, would I have acted the same way? I don’t know. I really don’t know.”

28) Does it still make sense?

To admit that you were wrong or did not act well at a certain point in time is not an easy thing to do. Overcoming yourself and your pride, admitting a mistake to yourself and others. Not everyone does. And not in every situation.

I believe in sayings of the kind “better late than never” and “it is never too late to be the person you would like to be” (even though I don’t remember who said those first). It might take some time, but it is still worth saying it, if you came to realise you did a mistake.

Without going into detail, I recently experienced that when someone was telling me after months about being unhappy with the own behaviour and expressing the wish to explain it. It did sound like an apology. I appreciate that.

27) Delivery from Hamburg to Hannover

Today I witnessed an unusual delivery- not via post service, but with the German Railway.

While passengers entered the train in Hamburg, one slightly distraught man tried to reach a friend on his phone. She was working in a film project and had forgotten the charger for her camera- at least it was in the hands of the aforementioned man and she was in Hannover. Now he was thinking out loud to leave the charger in the entrance of the carriage, so that his friend could take it out of the train at the track in Hannover. There two young people jumped in to help him. The woman, whose partner had helped her to carry the luggage into the train, offered to take the charger and give it to the person in Hannover, if she was there in time at the right track. Within a short time the man decided to accept, in the last minute they came to an agreement. The train number was quickly written down, phone numbers were exchanged. The train was full, ready to leave.

In Hannover the helping woman was ready and left for a short minute the train, holding the charger high up, while new passengers entered the train. Immediately the thankful recipient was found. A warm “Thank you”, a “You’re welcome”, and then the woman reentered the train. And the journey continued.

An advancement of trust can pay off. Good actions don’t have to cost much or be exhausting or complicated, But they can make a big difference.

26) Good intentions

“Out of personal experience can I tell of something, that can be seen maybe not necessarily a human action, but at least a human stance. It refers to my mother, who unfortunately became only 45 years old. You probably heard of the unsuccessful assassination attempt on Adolf Hitler, that, if it had succeeded, could have saved the life of probably millions of people. it is known, that from the 20th of July 1944 until the 8th of May 1945 more humans lost their lives than in all the years of war before. The course of human world history often depends on the most banal coincidence, that is showing again and again.

My maternal grandparents and their relatives lived in the Erzgebirge between Annaberg-Buchholz and Geyer. Even though the distance from my birthplace Eppendorf was only around 40 kilometres away on the road, we had to take two light railways and one normal railway train to get there. For me as a child, it was exciting every single time and I was looking forward to it a lot. After the attempted assassination of Hitler, a Carl Friedrich Goerdeler was wanted. He has once been city major of Leipzig and was designated of as a provisional state leader in case of a successful assassination. A million reichsmark were promised as a reward for hints, that help to his arrest.

This million would have been tempting for me as a twelve-year-old, but my mother told me when we started our travel to the Erzgebirge, that, should he sit in our waggon, she would never betray him. She did not tell me a reason for this, because it was in that time very dangerous for parents, to tell their children about political topics and opinions. They easily told things to teachers or Hitler Jugend (Hitler Youth) leaders or were tricked by suggestive questions to tell things about adults.”

Despite the fact that the mentioned Goerdeler was eventually caught and executed, it is still a good thing to know, that there were people who would have protected someone like him.

25) In the queue to help

A while ago I received this message:

“Your entry of last week remembered me of a situation at the butcher last week:

A long queue on the shop counter for a hot meal was waiting for their lunch. Next to it, a petite, foreign looking woman, around her a fidgety little boy, looked at the dishes. You could see, that she was calculating in her mind. Her clothing as well were not speaking of wealth. It took quite a while. When she gave her order to the sales assistant, the sales woman starts weighting the different meatballs- and shakes the head once in a while, because they are all too large to have for the money that was placed on the counter. She is still giving one to the woman. But the question for a bun she answers with a no- “I have given too much meat already”…

A man in the queue spontaneously shouts from the back: “Just give her the bun, I will pay for it!” He was faster than me, because I had the same in mind…”

And that is how stories are spreading and they let us notice other positive things. How beautiful to see!

24) A huge parking site

It is always wonderful to hear of positive events and happenings. And I enjoy that they are now so often forwarded to me, as was the case last week:

“Ah, you always need stories, right:

The evening before yesterday, it was already dark, I was on my way home, there was a woman asking me if I was well versed in Erfurt. Of course I do know the streets around here!

She had left her car on a big (what is big?) parking site and could not find this site anymore. I was alone this evening, had time and therefore I went with her on the way to find the car. If you know where in the city centre the common parking sites are you will find the right one after a while.

She was so happy about it.”