I’ve been thinking about kindness lately. A lot.

It seems to me that there is no expression in the German language (I am German) that matches the full meaning of the English word “kindness”.

“Freundlich” is just the way you communicate, an upgraded version of “höflich”. It lacks motivation.

“Güte” comes close. But “Güte” implies a difference in status. A father is “gütig” to his child for example.

“Herzlichkeit” is more about the level of enthusiasm that you show when interacting with others. It also lacks the foundation of truly caring and meaning well towards another human being.

There is no German word that expresses all the aspects of kindness.

And I fear our default “modus operandi” as Germans reflects that underfed, starved, crippled version of “kindness”.

About a week ago I got a chance to take a hard look into the mirror and reflect upon my own behaviour. “Do I live up to my own standards and values?”

I did not.

It all happened so suddenly. One moment I am in the car with my wife and my children. Evgenia drives carefully through the narrow, winded streets of Santander’s city centre. I look over to her and say: “Drive carefully. The city is full of tourists. You don’t pay attention for a second and someone runs in front of your car.” (My wife knows this herself, but it’s not true until a man said it, right?)

I hardly finished speaking when a motorbike zooms past us on the right side of our car – on the one lane street. His speed is way too high. I shout out: “That asshole! He could kill someone.”

A second later I see a woman stepping on the street and the motorbike slams right into her shoulder. She gets spinned around several times, then she hits the asphalt hard – centimetres away from the kerbside.

My wife brakes. The kids scream in horror. We get out of the car and try to help. Other people come too. The woman is conscious, but her head is bleeding and her hand is broken.

The driver of the motorcycle comes over, helm under his arm. He wants to check on her too. I get up and I scream at him:

“Are you happy now, you fucking arsehole? You were way too fast!”

I am furious.

And then I see how the Spanish people react. The driver is emotionally hurt, but he doesn’t scream back. He answers calmly. The other people who helped kindly tell me not to fight. Even the woman who got hit by the motorcycle tells me “It’s fine”.

Their reaction stopped me cold.

It’s not what I expected. It’s not what you would experience in Germany, believe me. The guy was clearly at fault. He was way too fast; he took over on the right side in a narrow street and as a local he knew that Santander is crawling with tourists at this time of year.

But everyone cut him some slack. They didn’t want to “make him pay” for his sins. Not even his victim. They wanted everyone to be fine.

And I? I wanted justice. That’s what Germans do.

We care about what is right and wrong. We care about the “proper way” of doing things. But do we care enough about each other?

When I started Immigrant Spirit, I wanted to lift people up. To help good and talented people to fulfil their own dreams. I was and I am still sure that the way to a happier and more successful society is to help each person to get closer to their individual version of heaven. Not to impose my ideas on others.

I wanted to help kind people to reach their personal goals by contributing to our economy.

Instead, I became hard and unforgiving, because others were unkind and uncaring towards me. I spent a good amount of time in politics and that’s the way it is. You constantly have to protect yourself against people who want to thwart your plans, harm you and destroy you if they can. (And that’s just inside your own party.)

The accident that I witnessed confirmed to me what I feared for a while:

I don’t like myself anymore.

When I look into the mirror, I see a hard man and a constantly stressed man. I deliver what I promised and I do go way beyond normal service for my clients.

But I am not the kind person I used to be.

I can be again, though. It is one major reason, why I sold my business after 13 years and started to write fiction again. (I am currently working on my first – hopefully funny – novela “(Let Me) Rest in Peace.“)

I wish you joy.


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