A Van Gogh Impression

“Great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together” Vincent van Gogh.

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Last week I witnessed a scene that has come to my mind several times since then. It happened in a small cafe in my neighbourhood. Van Gogh’s pictures at the end of the shop transported me to Amsterdam. I was enjoying a hot chocolate with a friend and time passed really quickly. When we had finished our cups, the owner, a friendly Dutchman, gently removed our cups and we complimented him on the remodeling of the bar and how much we enjoyed the chocolate. 

A few minutes later, the owner appeared again and happily started sweeping the floor. After that he picked up the trash from the toilet and put tables in order. I was shocked.  Working with him were two waiters, much younger than him. In the culture we live in, it would have been more usual to see them doing these chores. I would expect an owner to give orders to those who work for them, especially when it comes to the less pleasant duties. However, he was the one doing the cleaning. He was definitely leading by example. Sweeping the floors, he was showing his waiters that serving is not humiliating.

Serving others is so powerful that we can not appreciate the effect we can have on people around us. Most of the time we are not thinking of the consequences. We do it because we want to, even if nobody is looking. Our intention is not to set a good example or to be a role model, but even if we do not mean to, we can have an effect on people around us. 

I have been thinking for a long time of influencers in homemaking. Homemaking is also an area full of silent influencers. Silent because a good example has a power that cannot be measured by algorithms. How we live affects others. We look to others for examples and others look to us as an example. This happens whether we like it or not.

That afternoon, I received a lesson that I would try not to forget. In any profession, including  homemakers, we can leave a mark for future generations. Van Gogh said that “great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together.” Our good deeds can have an influence. Without noticing it we become part of something bigger, we become agents of change in society. 

Maybe someday I will tell the Dutchman this story, or maybe not. What I admire is that he would have done it even if the only witness would have been Van Gogh’s picture on the corner of the shop. I am thankful because I was lucky to see it with my own eyes. 

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